Cyber War

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Full Title of Reference

Cyber War: The Next Threat to National Security and What to Do About It

Full Citation

Richard A. Clarke and Robert Knake, Cyber War: The Next Threat to National Security and What to Do About It (2010).

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Categorization

Key Words

Botnet, Computer Network Attack, Cyber Terrorism, Department of Homeland Security, Information Asymmetries

Synopsis

Cyber War goes behind the "geek talk" of hackers and computer scientists to explain clearly and convincingly what cyber war is, how cyber weapons work, and how vulnerable we are as a nation and as individuals to the vast and looming web of cyber criminals. From the first cyber crisis meeting in the White House a decade ago to the boardrooms of Silicon Valley and the electrical tunnels under Manhattan, Clarke and coauthor Robert K. Knake trace the rise of the cyber age and profile the unlikely characters and places at the epicenter of the battlefield. They recount the foreign cyber spies who hacked into the office of the Secretary of Defense, the control systems for U.S. electric power grids, and the plans to protect America's latest fighter aircraft. Economically and militarily, Clarke and Knake argue, what we've already lost in the new millennium's cyber battles is tantamount to the Soviet and Chinese theft of our nuclear bomb secrets in the 1940s and 1950s.

Additional Notes and Highlights

Expertise Required: None

  • Chapter Excerpts:

Review from Wired.com:

  • "So much of Clarke’s evidence is either easily debunked with a Google search, or so defies common sense, that you’d think reviewers of the book would dismiss it outright. Instead, they seem content to quote the book liberally and accept his premise that cyberwar could flatten the United States, and no one in power cares at all. Of course, the debunking would be easier if the book had footnotes or endnotes, but neither are included — Revelation doesn’t need sources."
  • "The cyberwar rhetoric is dangerous. Its practitioners are artists of exaggeration, who seem to think spinning tall tales is the only way to make bureaucracies move in the right direction. But yelling “Cyberwar” in a crowded internet is not without consequence. Not only does it promote unnecessary fear, it feeds the forces of parochial nationalism and militarism — undermining a communications system that has arguably done more to connect the world’s citizens than the last 50 years of diplomacy."

Review from WashingtonPost.com:

  • "Cyber-war, cyber-this, cyber-that: What is it about the word that makes the eyes roll? Adults of a certain age, myself included, have a hard time getting worked up over something that seems more akin to pushing buttons frantically in "Grand Theft Auto" than waging a real war, in which very loud weapons shred bodies and devastate cities, possibly with a nuclear accent. How authentic can a war be when things don't blow up? Carried out in dark rooms by computer geeks armed with joysticks and keyboards, this click-click contest seems merely virtual, not really fatal."
  • "Maybe that's why experts such as Richard A. Clarke, the former White House terrorism adviser who famously failed to excite George W. Bush's aides about al-Qaeda in the summer of 2001, have had such a hard time convincing top policymakers that cyber-war is "the next threat to national security," as the subtitle of Clarke's new book puts it. By his account, Clarke was about as successful at getting the Bush administration to take cyber-war seriously as he was at warning them of al-Qaeda. But a cyber-9/11 could be the next big thing, he cautions, conjuring visions of frozen Pentagon computers, blinded telecom satellites, dead power plants, subways grinding to a halt, exploding petrochemical installations -- all the stuff that adds up to another mind-numbing cyber-phrase: critical infrastructure."