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Lights Out: A Cyberattack, A Nation Unprepared, Surviving the Aftermath Hardcover – October 27, 2015

4.2 out of 5 stars 716 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

An Amazon Best Book of November 2015: Investigative reporting that reads like fiction - or maybe I just wish it was fiction. In Lights Out, Ted Koppel flashes his journalism chops to introduce us to a frightening scenario, where hackers have tapped into and destroyed the United States power grids, leaving Americans crippled. Koppel outlines the many ways our government and response teams are far from prepared for an un-natural disaster that won't just last days or weeks - but months - and also shows us how a growing number of individuals have taken it upon themselves to prepare. Whether you pick up this book to escape into a good story, or for a potentially potent look into the future, you will not be disappointed. – Penny Mann


"[Koppel's] suggestion that the United States look back to the era of mass civil defense as a model for how we might start to make preparations is provocative and sobering at the same time."
-The New York Times Book Review

“Ted Koppel has set off a firestorm with his explosive new book….A devastating cyberattack on our powergrid [is]…the risk Koppel has brought to the attention of the American public.”
-The Energy Times

"Lights Out is a timely warning about the vulnerability of America to a massive cyberattack that would cripple all we take for granted – electricity, communication, transportation. This is not science fiction. Hats off to Ted Koppel for putting us all on alert."

"Without a single bullet, bomb, or missile, a foreign enemy can now launch a devastating attack on the United States. Koppel explores how cyberwarfare threatens all of us, assesses the risks, criticizes the lack of government action, and finds praise for the Mormon way of disaster preparedness. I hope he's wrong about the danger but fear he's right on the mark."
ERIC SCHLOSSER, author of Command and Control and Fast Food Nation

"Ted Koppel's unparalleled reporting skills are on full display in Lights Out. A fascinating and frightening look at just how vulnerable we are to a cyberattack."

“As readers would expect from Ted Koppel, Lights Out is dramatic but not hyped, tied to today’s news of shaky infrastructure and cyber attacks but also forward looking. This is an engrossing and significant book.”
JAMES FALLOWS, national correspondent, The Atlantic; author of China Airborne

“In Lights Out, Ted Koppel uses his profound journalistic talents to raise pressing questions about our nation’s aging electrical grid. Through interview after interview with leading experts, Koppel paints a compelling picture of the impact cyberattacks may have on the grid. The book reveals the vulnerability of perhaps the most critical of all the infrastructures of our modern society: the electricity that keeps our modern society humming along.”
MARC GOODMAN, author of Future Crimes

"Ted Koppel has written an important wake-up call for America on the threat of a crippling cyberattack. The danger we face right now is great, but so is the failure to acknowledge that the threat exists at all."
LEON PANETTA, former U.S. Secretary of Defense 

"Lights Out illuminates one of the greatest vulnerabilities to our nation – a cyberattack on our power grid. It is a wake-up call for all of us. We are the nation that created the internet; we should be the first to secure it. This powerful book could be the catalyst for just such a change."
GENERAL (RET.) KEITH ALEXANDER, former director of the National Security Agency

"Try to imagine what a malevolent government, armed with the latest computer sophistication, could do to another nation's complex and entirely digital-dependent economy and social infrastructure. Fortunately, Ted Koppel has imagined it for us. We have been warned."

"When the lights go out after the cyberattack, this is the book everyone will read."
 –RICHARD A. CLARKE, author of Cyber War and former National Coordinator for Security, Infrastructure Protection, and Counter-terrorism

“A bold enumeration of the challenges posed by the digital age; an appeal to safeguard new instruments of human flourishing by studying the ways in which they could be exploited.”

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Crown; 1st edition (October 27, 2015)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 055341996X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0553419962
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.1 x 9.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (716 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #4,040 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Monica J. Kern VINE VOICE on September 12, 2015
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
People have been warning of the potential catastrophe awaiting us if the electric grid should fail for a long time, but most of those warnings have fallen on deaf ears or considered the rantings of post-apocalyptic doomsayers. But when Ted Koppel--one of the nation's most trusted journalists--takes up the cause, each and every one of us needs to listen. In a relatively short and readable book, Koppel succinctly and unemotionally makes the case that (a) the electric grid of the U.S. is extremely vulnerable to collapse due to either cyberwarfare, EMP attack, or solar flare; (b) due to a variety of economic and political reasons, we have not implemented necessary steps to protect the grid; and (c) most frighteningly of all, we do not have emergency plans on either the state or federal level to deal with a widespread collapse of the grid.

This is not a trivial threat. Imagine Katrina, only thousands-fold. Koppel notes that the report of the commission tasked with evaluating a potential EMP attack predicted that, in the case of such an attack that would destroy large parts of the grid, only 1 in 10 Americans would still be alive a year later. It is important to stress in light of the preceding sentence that Koppel's book is NOT a hysterical fear-mongering rant; instead, it is a careful analysis of the genuine risks and a convincing documentation of how completely unprepared we are, at all levels, to face this threat. As a chilling example, consider the quote Koppel provides by Jeh Johnson, secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, who when asked how the country would respond to a collapse of the grid, said "Oh, I'm sure FEMA has the capability to bring in backup transformers.
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Format: Hardcover
Because he’s Ted Koppel, he gets to interview cabinet secretaries and their senior staff, as well as senior civil servants, politicians and agency heads. To set up interviews across the country, he simply called US Senators. That quality alone makes Lights Out a higher level read. The other plus is the way Koppel has organized and written this book. It is broken out into bite-sized chapters, like television news items, keeping interest but delivering the salient points succinctly. And he leaves no stone unturned. Every time you think “Yes, but…” he has the answer in the next paragraph, page or chapter. So Lights Out is both challenging and satisfying, fascinating and horrifying. And important.

The core of the horror is our electrical grid. It is no secret that it old, old fashioned, creaky, decrepit and vulnerable to physical attack. Koppel adds that in addition, it is even more vulnerable to cyberattack. Hackers could, if they so desired, crash the whole electric grid, much as the United States and Israel ruined Iran’s uranium processing plants and as Iran turned 30,000 Saudi computers into useless doorstops. We have the technology; we have successfully deployed it ourselves. If similar efforts were made against the USA, it would mean weeks and months before power was restored. Water would stop flowing, gas would stop flowing, gas stations would close, hospitals would close, banking systems would cease. Debit and credit cards would not operate. Replacements for Very Large Transformers run to over a year lead time. The US has hundreds, all custom made.

And the government? Clueless. There are no plans to deal with this or prevent it.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
In response to the age old question "Where were you when the lights went out?"
Same place where I was, in the dark.
This book reflects the authors capability to interview important people. However their responses are fairly uniform across the board.
Yes, there might be a problem and we are doing very little to prepare.

The book is short, I read it on a Sunday afternoon. It seems to have a good list of references but there are not a lot of details in the recommendations. Three chapters and about 27 pages are used to discuss the Mormons, which can be summed up as they are prepared.

Based on a TV interview I expected more details, Such as a ranking of which geographic areas are most in danger. Are here areas of much older facilities likely to be difficult to repair? Actions to take if a problem occurs, rather than just "have a plan". Hard examples of major recent power outages and time it took to recover, instead of just a few examples.

For instance if 1 major transformer is lost do we stay or do we go?

If you know nothing about the grid and the potential for it failing, nothing about cyberwarfare and the possibilities, this might be a good introduction.

It's a very easy read without a ton of details. And it shows what the government is not doing. If you remember the Northeast blackout of 2003 in which a software bug plunged 55 million in to the dark then you know the possibility of computer failure taking down the grid.
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