- Hardcover: 288 pages
- Publisher: Atlantic Monthly Press; First Edition edition (September 27, 2011)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0802119832
- ISBN-13: 978-0802119834
- Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 6.2 x 1.1 inches
- Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces
- Average Customer Review: 113 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #804,600 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Worm: The First Digital World War Hardcover – September 27, 2011
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When Mark Bowden writes, smart readers pay attention. . . . Bowden is a deserved brand name a superb reporter and compelling narrative writer, whether his subject is war in a forlorn land (Black Hawk Down, set in Somalia) or a variety of others in seven other books (Killing Pablo, Guests of the Ayatollah, etc.). And now we have the current masterpiece, Worm.”The Philadelphia Inquirer
The author takes readers behind the scenes, showing the security specialists’ increasing frenzy, not to mention occasional infighting, as they worked to defeat the worm. Along the way, the author lucidly explains how malware can take over computers as well as how the very openness of the Internet makes it vulnerable to attack.”Publishers Weekly
From the author of Black Hawk Down, a different sort of blood-and-thunder heroism narrative, out on the frontiers of cybercrime. . . . A brief, punchy reminder of our high-tech vulnerabilities.”Kirkus Reviews
Bowden . . . gives this account of the computer world’s efforts to neutralize the Conficker worm the flavor of a riveting report from the digital battlefield’s front lines. . . . A nerve-wracking but first-rate inside peek into the world of cybercrime and its vigilant adversaries.”Booklist
[T]he thumbs of every 30-something üntergeek will still Tweet in ecstasy at seeing technical terms like NCP/IP, Port 445, and MS08-067 spread across the pages of a mainstream book. But the rest of us should take Mark Bowden’s warnings with the utmost seriousness because of the growing threats to our wired world.”New York Journal of Books
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First things first. If you are a network newbie, you will be coddled by this book. You don't need to have your MCSE or CISSP to read "Worm". Bowden does a good job of breaking down salient data - what is TCPIP, what is RPC - and creating explanations that make sense. Don't know why Port 445 is so special? Wonder why Windows is so often the target of malware around the world? (the technical explanation, not the political answer) You will after reading this book. It won't win you any medals at the next Cisco shareholders meeting or net you a job in IT, but at least you'll know why Patch Tuesday is important and why malware isn't just a problem with code - it's a social engineering problem, too.
The next best thing about this book is how much it stresses that the Internet is still in it's adolescence. It's a hodgepodge of ancient protocols and new-fangled protocols shoehorned into communicating with one another, and that's a fragile animal. you'll wonder why it doesn't go down more often.
"Worm" is entertaining and informative. Personally, I think it's too short. You'll get a quick bio about a particular researcher, follow them through some problem solving and then, inexplicably, drop them entirely while picking up with another researcher. I think the personalities involved are as important as the science. But those quibbles are trivial.
A worm is a small packet of information, rather like a virus in a human although not like a virus as we use that term in computers, that borrows deep inside your Windows operating system and waits for instructions from somewhere outside of your computer. It isn't there in particular to take out your computer, although it can, but to unite with others to act together to do something like take down the electric grid in the USA or even the internet if that is the intention. You don't have to open an email or go to some website to get it. If you are on the internet, and use Windows, it can find you. Oh yes, it can come through your USB port. It is a bit more complicated than that but that's the basics.
Worm tells the story of the Conficker Worm From the time it first showed its face in what is known as a honeynet through its updating and where it stands today. A honeynet looks like a bunch of computers on the internet but is really just one computer that is watching what is picked up. If you have lots of computers, you are more likely to pick up a virus, worm or trojan. There are people out there who are monitering the internet, some of whom are even being paid to do it. (I have to admit that my cynicism took a bit of a blow learning that there are people out there protecting the internet for free)
What makes this interesting to me, is that it introduces us to the "good" guys in this war. The old idea of a young male hacking into computers for fun? Well, some of those guys grew up to be the White Hats as they refer to themselves. And they do all seem to be men. They find some of the same challenge that had them breaking into computers in pitting their intelligence against the Black Hats who are every bit as intelligent as themselves.
Someone in a review complained that the ending is anticlimatic. Well yes, the worm is still out there. It hasn't done anything except send out spam for a very short time for a fake antivirus program, perhaps to show what it could do if it wanted to. But I think it is a glimpse into the near future. Maybe this worm is so well watched that it will never really do anything but what about other worms? Recently a worm disrupted uranium production in Iran. There are countries that would prefer that Iran not have the bomb. Using the word 'war' in the title probably doesn't help either. Sadly, a war without bombs and dust and places that can be watched on TV doesn't hold many people's attention.
Another reviewer complained about the extensive explainations. I'm a woman in her 60s, about as far away from what people think of when they hear geek. I understood this book. (disclosure: I read Martin Gardner so there is some geek in me)
I found the book interesting. I recommend it.
Cyberwarfare is an important topic and presents many challenges to our nation. Bowen again did extensive research and assuming his knowledge of how the internet works is like most people's, he does a great job in understanding what is going on behind the screen. He does a good job in explaining how the internet works and how it can be exploited. I now have a better understanding. The book is a good size- appx 250 pages and I'm sure if I went back and re-read it I would understand the technical details even better.
However to me there just wasn't that compelling of a story narrated in the book. First off I thought the book would take a broader look at cyber threats, instead it mostly focuses on the "conficker" virus which infected appx 30 million computers worldwide and was perceived to be capable of being quite threatening. He focuses on a group of security experts from private industry who worked on containing the virus with very little help or concern from the government.
He could have gone another way with this work. It could have been an overarching look at how the internet works, why it is vulnerable and what policies should be in place to prevent it's weaponization. He could have included case studies like this conflicker virus but it should have been more of an overview.
Instead he wrote this like it was an exciting story along the lines of killing Pablo Escobar (Killing Pablo), Killing Bin Laden (the finish) or a raid gone bad (Black Hawk Down) or the take over of a US embassy (Guests of the Ayatollah). However a bunch of geeks tracking down 1s and 0s does not make for an exciting story telling.
I still love the guy's work and look forward to his next project.