- Hardcover: 384 pages
- Publisher: Crown (June 19, 2018)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 9780451497895
- ISBN-13: 978-0451497895
- ASIN: 0451497899
- Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.2 x 9.5 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 95 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #26,653 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Perfect Weapon: War, Sabotage, and Fear in the Cyber Age Hardcover – June 19, 2018
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"[Sanger’s] description of the cyber portion of Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential election is thorough and convincing. It ought to be required reading for anyone who doubts the extent and seriousness of the Russian effort… The great value of The Perfect Weapon is less in its specific policy prescriptions than in its being the most comprehensive, readable source of information and insight about the policy quandaries that modern information technology and its destructive potential have spawned.”
—THE NEW YORK TIMES
“Timely and bracing… With the deep knowledge and bright clarity that have long characterized his work, Sanger recounts the cunning and dangerous development of cyberspace into the global battlefield of the 21st century… A reader finishes this book fully understanding why cyberwar has moved rapidly to the top of America’s official list of national security threats. And why, for the first time in three generations, this nation’s power in the world is seriously threatened.”
—David Von Drehle, THE WASHINGTON POST
"This encyclopedic account by a Times correspondent traces the rapid rise of cyberwarfare capabilities and warns that ideas about how to control them are only beginning to emerge."
—THE NEW YORK TIMES BOOK REVIEW (Editor's Choice)
“In his new book, The Perfect Weapon, Sanger offers a panoramic view of the rapidly evolving world of cyber-conflict. He covers incidents from the covert U.S. cyber-campaign to sabotage Iran’s nuclear program (a story we know about largely because of Sanger’s diligent reporting) to Edward Snowden’s epic heist of National Security Agency data. And yes, there’s also plenty of background on Russia’s active measures during the 2016 campaign. But there’s also a wealth of gripping material on stories that have probably been missed by the broader public… It all adds up to a persuasive argument for the truth of the book’s title.”
—Christian Caryl, THE WASHINGTON POST
“[The Perfect Weapon is] an important – and deeply sobering – new book about cyberwarfare.”
—NICHOLAS KRISTOF, New York Times
"A chilling new book."
—THE FINANCIAL TIMES
“Anyone who doubts cyber’s unintended consequences should read David Sanger’s new book The Perfect Weapon: War, Sabotage, and Fear in the Cyber Age. Sanger, a reporter for The New York Times, has been a dogged and diligent observer of cybersecurity issues for years. His book is a readable account of what went wrong.”
—Robert Samuelson, THE WASHINGTON POST
“[The Perfect Weapon] reads like a thriller spy novel, except the stories are true, which makes the book more terrifying… Sanger shows the political, military, and economic impacts of actual hacks, moves made by governments and industry to counter moves and protect against future attacks, and the counter to the counter to the counter, all told at a breathtaking pace. But this is more than just a real-life drama; it also is a cautionary tale of the policy of information power… This book at turns was both fascinating in its detail and access and terrifying in its implications.”
“[Sanger] has penned one of the most comprehensive and accessible histories of cyberwar to date… Sanger’s book is more than a history and primer. It also advances a series of arguments, among them that the United States is not ready for the kind of cyberattack to come.”
—BULLETIN OF THE ATOMIC SCIENTISTS
About the Author
DAVID E. SANGER is national security correspondent for the New York Times and bestselling author of The Inheritance and Confront and Conceal. He has been a member of three teams that won the Pulitzer Prize, including in 2017 for international reporting. A regular contributor to CNN, he also teaches national security policy at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government.
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I burned through this book in less than a day. The Perfect Weapon has the page-flipping intensity of the best techno-thriller novels, with the gravitas of meticulously-sourced nonfiction. If I had to sum up this book in one word, it would be “terrifying.”
With true stories from the cyber sabotage of the Democratic Campaign Committee to the penetration of the White House computer networks, this book is a wake-up call for our technology-dependent civilization. I just hope we don’t hit the ‘snooze’ button and go back to sleep.
The US government has been slow on the uptake to acknowledge this threat. In 2007, the intelligence community's annual worldwide threat assessment delivered to Congress did not even include cyber weapons on the list. At that point, both Russia and China had been building their cyber capabilities for years. Now, of course, attitudes have changed. The United States Cyber Command, created in 2009, was upgraded only in 2018 into a Unified Combatant Command, one of ten in the US armed forces. Cyber Command is headquartered at Fort Meade, along with the National Security Agency, and is commanded by the agency's director. Together, NSA and Cyber Command house both our country's offensive and defensive cyber operations. Sanger explains that the two organizations work together uneasily. Their priorities are sometimes at cross-purposes.
Excessive caution about the threat of cyber weapons
David Sanger is extraordinarily well-connected in Washington. He has been writing on foreign policy, globalization, nuclear proliferation, and the presidency for more than thirty years for the New York Times. He has been the paper's Chief Washington Correspondent since 2006. Throughout The Perfect Weapon, he cites one-on-one conversations with nearly all the major players in the drama he describes. And drama it is. This book details the bureaucratic turf wars, foot-dragging, incompetence, and excessive caution that has so often characterized America's inadequate response to the threat posed by cyber weapons.
The dilemma Sanger describes is worrisome. "America's offensive cyber prowess has so outpaced our defense that officials hesitate to strike back," he writes. Although American companies and government are penetrated online thousands of times every day, the government has rarely spoken out to denounce those responsible. Partly, this is because it may take days, weeks, or even months to assemble definitive proof about who launched a given attack. But it's also because officials in the CIA, NSA, Pentagon, and White House are unwilling for our adversaries to gain any insight into how we obtained the information. Even when we know perfectly well who's responsible, they decline to speak out. Simply citing specific evidence could reveal the existence of American or Allied "implants" in their computer systems. Like many of the top former officials he interviewed, Sanger regards that reluctance to show our cards as an error.
"The US has only rarely activated cyber weapons"
Unless the government can accuse an adversary in public, it's hampered from retaliating. The upshot is that the US has only rarely activated cyber weapons, so far as we know. (The most notable exceptions were the Stuxnet attack on Iran's nuclear production facilities in 2010, carried out jointly with Israel, and the attack on North Korea's launch systems that caused its missiles to explode or fall into the sea.) However, Russia has not hesitated to attack weaker nations, chiefly Ukraine and Estonia, as well as both the United States and Western Europe.
As Sanger points out, there are ways, however inadequate, that the United States might combat a nuclear attack. There is always a warning, even if it's measured only in minutes. With cyber weapons, however, there is no warning. And "In almost every classified Pentagon scenario for how a future confrontation with Russia and China, even Iran and North Korea, might play out, the adversary's first strike against the United States would include a cyber barrage aimed at civilians." And the threat isn't limited to those four hostile countries. "A decade ago," Sanger notes, "there were three or four nations with effective cyber forces; now there are more than thirty." Now we face the proliferation of cyber weapons, not just nuclear devices.
About the author
David E. Sanger has written two books on American foreign policy as well as The Perfect Weapon, his most recent work. He is the Chief Washington Correspondent for the New York Times.
However it is clear that the general public does not realize the seriousness of the threat. And many in government—federal, state and local don’t understand either.
It is obvious that we are at war. We need a program like Y2K to harden our networks. We need a 9/11 type commission to find out what happened in the 2016 election and we need to protect the upcoming midterms and beyond.
The Russians were able to change voting totals in the Ukraine and shut down their electric grid.
We need paper ballots. How hard would it be to build a touch screen machine that prints your ballot in human readable form with your selections clearly marked. You check it and feed it into the ocr scanner. Paper trail and you check it just like your atm or gasoline receipt.
It would be hard for anyone to hack the voting machines.