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34 of 43 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A description of how national rivalries will be implemented in the future, April 14, 2010
This review is from: Cyber War: The Next Threat to National Security and What to Do About It (Hardcover)
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I consider the term war to be extremely overused and that includes when it appears in the term "cyber war." I prefer the longer but more accurate term, "cyber component of national rivalries." War is an event between nations where the goal for each side is to kill as many citizens of the other side as quickly and efficiently as possible so that the other nation must accept their terms. In the cyber actions of one nation against another, most human casualties are consequential rather than a direct result of the action.
Few people can match the national security credentials of Richard Clarke and in this book he makes the case for national action to protect the U. S. infrastructure from substantial cyber attack carried out by another nation. Such attacks have already been executed; to date they have not made significant noise in the major news outlets, although most have appeared in the computing literature. Clarke uses the phrase kinetic weapons to refer to the "bombs and bullets" type of warfare, so he distinguishes between cyber attacks and real attacks.
Clarke also mentions several war games that have been carried out and the results are alarming, a great deal of the infrastructure of the United States is vulnerable to a concerted cyber attack if the malicious software entities have been properly placed and timely executed. Of course, he also admits that the United States is also capable of launching cyber attacks of its own.
The most interesting points in the book are when Clarke talks about nuclear weapons and how policies evolved and agreements were reached between the United States and the Soviet Union over how the weapons would be declared and their use specified. There is no question that these agreements helped keep the world safe and worked to defuse several potential crises that could have led to the threat of nuclear weapons being used. Clarke proposes similar guidelines of allowed and disallowed behaviors in the cyber component of national rivalries. Acts such as industrial espionage, spying and other data thefts would be considered acceptable but the destruction of financial data and power plants would be disallowed and considered the equivalent of an attack by kinetic weapons. Certain trial runs that only cause limited damage would result in harsh diplomatic rhetoric but not be considered the equivalent of a kinetic attack.
There is no question that in the modern world, low-level cyber attacks of one nation against another take place on a regular basis. Up to this point, even the most significant have been more in the category of significant annoyance rather than a crisis. However, the potential of a major attack is real and potentially devastating, so it is necessary for the United States to develop an effective strategy of defense and deterrence. Clarke sets down some sound principles for such a strategy while pointing out many of the current vulnerabilities. He does an excellent job in describing the new form of the execution of national rivalries and perhaps even how the next major kinetic war will begin.

Personal note: I have taught computer science at the collegiate level for over twenty years, including courses in encryption and computer security. I have also attended many conferences where at least one of the topics was computer security.
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Showing 1-3 of 3 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Apr 19, 2010 1:30:23 PM PDT
Bruce Stern says:
I disagree with your semantic hair-splitting in defining a "real" attack versus a cyber attack. If another nation cyber attacks the U.S., and crippled the electric grid servicing a region during a heat wave or days of severe cold, and people died, or were injured, perhaps permanently, resulting from their inability to cool or heat their homes, would that not be a very real attack on the people of our country?
It seems to me that we in the U.S. need to take more seriously the possibilities and implications of a successful cyber crippling of the infrastructure and, subsequently, the people of the U.S.

Posted on Apr 19, 2010 8:17:02 PM PDT
On NPR he discussed specifics such as Israeli destruction of Syrian nuclear site and North Korean cyber "attack" on U.S. grid in 2009. Does his book describe describe specific examples or is it just a generality?

In reply to an earlier post on Apr 20, 2010 10:28:44 AM PDT
Yes, he does discuss the likely Israeli physical attack on the Syrian site as well as some other possible cyber attacks launched against the United States.
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Charles Ashbacher

Location: Marion, Iowa United States

Top Reviewer Ranking: 247