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There Will Be Cyberwar: How The Move To Network-Centric War Fighting Has Set The Stage For Cyberwar Paperback – March 23, 2015
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About the Author
Richard Stiennon is Chief Research Analyst for IT-Harvest, the firm he founded in 2005 to cover the booming IT security industry. He is the author of Surviving Cyberwar (Government Institutes, 2010). He recently joined the advisory board of the Information Governance Initiative, and serves on the advisory boards of several security startups. He was Chief Marketing Officer for Fortinet, Inc. and VP Threat Research at Webroot Software. Prior to that he was VP Research at Gartner, Inc. He has a B.S. in Aerospace Engineering (Michigan) and his MA in War in the Modern World from King’s College, London.
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Top Customer Reviews
There are a lot of things that Richard Stiennon deals with that have been dealt with in other books-- just not all in one place. And so that is an advantage of reading this book. But it can (and should) be supplemented with some other texts that explore the points that he has made more deeply. After someone has gone through those types of books, it is more difficult to be surprised by the things detailed in this book.
The book starts with a hypothetical report that is made by the US military after defeat in the Taiwan Strait. They are reevaluating what (the author predicts) went wrong. (The Chinese show up again and again as villains in these stories. And they are that in real life.)
Of the things that the author notes that have already been noted in other places:
1. (pps. 34, 36). There is a lot of back and forth between the development of technologies and then the development of attacks against the security of those technologies. And then the development of a new level of security in response to those attacks. And then....... This topic was taken up by Simon Singh in The Code Book: The Science of Secrecy from Ancient Egypt to Quantum Cryptography. Security technology has been evolving as a cat and mouse game for a long time. Maybe even a couple of millennia.
2. (p. 40). Stiennon calls the lack of development of defense systems shortsighted and would prefer that technologies were proactively developed instead of reactively developed. But that's a bit like saying that a medicine should be invented and all of its side effects should be accounted for before it is released. Sometimes the only way to obtain knowledge is as a result of a crisis. (That is how the US learned about the various techniques that it developed to avoid real estate bubbles in light of the housing crisis.) The retrospective nature of knowledge was taken up by Nassim Nicholas Taleb in his book The Black Swan: Second Edition: The Impact of the Highly Improbable: With a new section: "On Robustness and Fragility" (Incerto). Ironically enough, this book was even mentioned in Stiennon's book. But it seems that the author did not draw the obvious parallel. The only way to know how to deal with a Snowden or a Manning was because you learned about what happened after it did happen. The next Snowden will be something else unpredictable.
3. Going further on the epistemic foundations of security development: This issue of knowledge as a result of feedback mechanisms was also taken up brilliantly by Thomas Sowell in his Knowledge And Decisions. Not only is a lot of knowledge only "foreseeable" after the fact, but dealing with what happens after the fact is the only way to learn from disasters. It may be that the US has to suffer a military defeat to be given the opportunity to learn a lot of things. i. Is Taiwan really worth all the blood and treasure that they were willing to expend on it (given that China shows no signs of becoming democratic--ever); ii. What did we do wrong that allowed this to happen in the first place?; iii. What is the cost of not upgrading the military's security in a timely manner?
4. There is a slap at the nature of democratic government. Yes, there are perverse incentives when the government is in a constant state of flux. No, people don't always vote for what will serve their best interests. The Myth of the Rational Voter: Why Democracies Choose Bad Policies. But again: You cannot argue with people to whom democracy is a religion any more than you can argue with people for whom Islam is their religion. In the same way that Japanese learned that The Emperor was not divine with their WWII defeat, perhaps American people will learn that democracy is not the only way to do things when that is proven to not solve every problem and that you can't vote utopia into existence.
5. We knew that the private sector does most things better than the State. That is old news. It could be found in any books by Milton Friedman (Capitalism and Freedom: Fortieth Anniversary Edition) or John Stossel. The fact that the private sector was more aggressive about protecting its source of income is not only unsurprising, but it's entirely predictable.
6. There is something that is not explicitly stated, but is in the background in this book just the same: Sometimes decision making units reach the limits of what they are capable of. And that is not new. It was taken up by Joseph Tainter in The Collapse of Complex Societies (New Studies in Archaeology). (The same has also given presentations about how complex systems fail.) Given what we know about national variations in IQ, is it surprising that Western people would reach the limits of what they are capable of a bit faster than better organized Chinese?
7. The trial and error nature of discovery is one that was detailed well in Tim Harford's Adapt: Why Success Always Starts with Failure. This failure of US intelligence agencies to get this right was portrayed negatively in this book, but it is exactly what you would expect given the size of that organization. And the fact that they are going to be slow learners is not unexpected given that they don't operate under the threat of going out of business and that the money that they lose is *someone else's* money.
Of the book itself:
1. There were several spelling mistakes as a result of the book's being self published.
2. The topic was just a bit too technical. Most people won't understand it. If a reader read any two of the book that I noted earlier in the review, you could have deduced why predicting cyber attacks is next to impossible. And in that case, said reader would not have needed to read this book at all. But then......if someone had read none of those books and then came across this book the reasons for why cyber attacks are hard to predict would not have been brought across clearly from this writer's prose.
3. The coverage of the (various) topics comes across as "a mile wide and an inch deep."
4. The length of the average chapter was 7.6 pages, and the whole book can be read through in about 3 hours. Most of the references are links.
Verdict: Recommended at the price of $1. The whole book only takes a few hours to go through, and there is really no one who can fail to get at least some information from it.