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America the Vulnerable: Inside the New Threat Matrix of Digital Espionage, Crime, and Warfare Hardcover – September 29, 2011

4.6 out of 5 stars 30 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


"Cybercrime, espionage, and warfare are among the great challenges of this century, but as Joel Brenner argues, we are woefully ill-prepared to meet them. Drawing on history, law, economics, common sense, and his rare experience in counterintelligence, Brenner deftly describes the problems and offers a series of very practical solutions. This book is both well written and convincing."
(-Joseph Nye, author of Soft Power and The Future of Power )

"If you have a responsibility for protecting intellectual property, trade secrets and other instruments of successful business; if you are responsible for protecting national information and technology interests then you have a responsibility to read this book. Bring a change of underwear."
(-Vint Cerf, chief Internet evangelist at Google )

"America the Vulnerable offers an expert's keen insight into the netherworld of cyberrisk. Rich in facts, stories, and analysis, the book is a clarion call for more effective cyberpolicies and practices in both the government and private sector. America should take heed."
(-Ambassador Henry A. Crumpton, author of The Art of Intelligence )

"Brenner takes us inside the daily battle in the world of cyber espionage, where China and others are stealing American corporations'' 'secret sauce.'' He shows us the on-going cyber war that the US is losing."
(-Richard Clarke, author of Cyber War and Against All Enemies )

"Joel Brenner is a quiet hero-a lawyer who, after 9/11, forsook a prosperous life to serve the United States on a different kind of front line: the world of intelligence. He has written a book about cyberspace that will inform his fellow citizens-and should trouble them deeply. Any reader, casually familiar with the hacking and computer mischief that one reads about daily, will nonetheless be appalled at what he learns here about the scope of cyberespionage, crime, and malicious action that has already been directed against private citizens, corporations, and the government. A lucid, scary, and very important book."
(-Eliot Cohen, author of Supreme Command and Conquered into Liberty )

"Joel Brenner's book should be front and center in the 2012 presidential race. Scarier than a Stephen King novel-only this is nonfiction!"
(-David Smick, author of the international bestseller The World Is Curved ) --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

About the Author

Joel Brenner is a former senior counsel at the National Security Agency, where he advised on legal and policy issues relating to network security. Previously, he served as the national counterintelligence executive in the Office of the Director of National Intelligence and as NSA's inspector general. He is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Madison (B.A.), The London School of Economics (Ph.D.), and Harvard Law School (J.D.). Brenner currently practices law in Washington, D.C., specializing in cyber-security and related issues.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Press (September 29, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 159420313X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1594203138
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.2 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (30 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #428,804 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Loyd Eskildson HALL OF FAME on October 1, 2011
Format: Hardcover
Author Joel Brenner was Inspector General of the National Security Agency after 9/11, then head of counter-intelligence for the director of National Intelligence. His book introduction does an excellent job summarizing recent intelligence thefts - the Chinese downloading up to 20 terabytes of information from DOD (equal to about one-fifth of all the data in the Library of Congress), Wiki-Leaks acquiring classified diplomatic cables, specifications for the avionics and armor on the president's helicopter ending up in Iran, theft of corporate technology and millions of consumer credit card information, and the details for a new silent submarine drive system and a new advanced radar system - each costing billions and requiring years to develop. Then there's vulnerability issues over our electric, pipeline, financial, air traffic-control, and telecommunications systems. Clearly the work of spies and thieves has become much easier and more efficient.

Yet, with all the thousands of reported Internet crimes in the U.S. reported every year, only 15 resulted in arrests or prosecutions in 2008, 19 in 2007. Botnets (linked computers taking directions from a hostile 'master') can shut down targeted systems (distributed-denial-of-service, aka 'DDOS'), and make identifying and blocking the perpetrators quite difficult when overseas computers are involved (as they usually are) - sometimes these overseas perpetrators are located in nations with no laws against cyber crimes, such as Africa or Latin America.

The FBI has estimated that China's PLA has 30,000 cyberspies, augmented by another 150,000 in the private sector. Russia has a similar situation.

Amazingly, the U.S.
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Format: Hardcover
America the Vulnerable is that welcome and infrequent book by a very fine writer who also has the skills to operate successfully at the top levels of the United States government. Joel Brenner offers us an insider's grasp of the vulnerabilities that a system built for transparency has created when it has become indispensable for the functioning of the nation's security and economy. He is one former government official who makes his argument with literary grace, a lawyer's attention to detail and the big picture, sophistication about politics and economics as well as a bit of humor even when dealing with very serious matters. Mixing analysis of the way internet is built with fascinating anecdotes and examples, Brenner makes a compelling case about the vulnerabilities that the internet in its current form creates for American national security, our economy, physical and energy infrastructure, financial system and our own privacy. This is a book for anyone who uses the internet, not only for officials in government, business leaders and computer experts. It is a timely intervention that anticipates problems we are and will be facing. It should stimulate informed and much needed public discussion now and in years to come.
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Format: Hardcover
America the Vulnerable (ATV) is one of the best "big picture" books I've read in a long while. The author is a former NSA senior counsel and inspector general, and was the National Counterintelligence Executive (NCIX). In these roles he could "watch the fireworks" (not his phrase, but one popular in the intel community) while the nation suffered massive data exfiltration to overseas adversaries. ATV explains the problem in terms suitable for those familiar with security issues and those learning about these challenges. By writing ATV, Joel Brenner accurately and succinctly frames the problems facing the US and the West in cyberspace.

In this review I'd like to highlight some of Mr Brenner's insights and commentary.

On pp 65-7 he discusses "China's Long View... China had the world's largest economy for eighteen of the past twenty centuries. The two exceptions were those of America's youth and rise to power.... Like India, China does not regard Western domination as normal, and it does not suffer from an inferiority complex. China's chief national strategic objectives are to lift its population out of poverty and reestablish its place in the international order."

On pp 68-71 he explains the problem with the binary thinking of Westerners regarding war. China does not see war as a binary issue, where one is either at peace OR at war. "This kind of ambiguity is difficult for Americans to digest. We are direct and aboveboard, and we like to think others are like us -- or would be if given half a chance... [W]e suffer from a Western misconception in our law, religion, and policy that 'peace' and 'war' are opposites that cannot occur at the same time...
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Format: Hardcover
Speak to a civil engineer, and it won’t take long until the conversation turns to the sorry state of America’s infrastructure. The civil engineer will let you know that far too many bridges, canals, roads and highways, dams, tunnels, and more are in dangerous condition due to neglected maintenance. Much of America’s infrastructure is highly vulnerable, given that it’s over 50 years old and long overdue for an overhaul.

In America the Vulnerable: Inside the New Threat Matrix of Digital Espionage, Crime, and Warfare, author Joel Brenner, an attorney who was the senior counsel at the NSA until 2009, takes the conversation to a different infrastructure, namely the digital and network world. Brenner’s premise is that, since much of the digital world and information superhighway haven’t been adequately secured, much of the U.S. digital and critical infrastructure remains vulnerable to hackers, foreign governments, terrorists and numerous other threats and adversaries.

In this 250 page call to action, Brenner lays out, in detail, the dangers the U.S. faces to its freedom and national security if action is not taken – and taken quickly.

In the movie Field of Dreams, a farmer repeatedly hears a voice whispering, “if you build it, he will come,” which leads the main character to build a baseball diamond. In the digital world, the reality is such that, if you don’t secure it, they will come and take your data and intellectual property. America the Vulnerable lays out the case that an insecure digital infrastructure almost begs adversaries to comes and attack it, which in turn places the entire nation at risk.
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