• Innovative


Much of the work of national security agencies and private or hired-gun hackers occurs in secret and some of it involves cyberwarfare, a realm of constantly changing esoteric technology. When events come to light, they provoke considerable denial and conflicting narratives. This makes Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter Fred Kaplan’s lucid history of US involvement in cyberwarfare all the more impressive. In this useful look at a complicated subject, he explains cyberwar’s main participants and events, and he clarifies the politics and technologies involved. getAbstract recommends his welcome precision and strong moral sense to anyone interested in global politics, civil liberties in cyberspace, history, or the intersection of technology and society.


Cybersecurity Issues

Armies have intercepted one another’s communications since the time of the ancient Romans. Since the 19th century, militaries have used cryptographers to encode messages and break the enemy’s codes. Rather than merely retrieving signals, cyberfighters change or corrupt signals to disorient their foes. Attackers who hack into networks can damage anything from dams to traffic lights worldwide, and at little cost. Before the information age, you had to monitor specific circuits or implant devices on single lines to intercept a signal or overhear a conversation. Now, you can monitor entire networks to collect mass amounts of data on citizens and noncitizens.

Cyberwar Milestones

Operation Desert Storm was the first example of “counter command-control warfare.” The US penetrated Saddam Hussein’s “command-control network.” After the invasion, Saddam ran fiber optic cable between key cities. The US bombed it, and positioned a satellite overhead. Saddam switched to his backup system using microwaves, which the US monitored. This helped US forces disrupt Iraq’s radar and counter its military. The US could have done more, but top officers dismissed...

About the Author

Slate’s national security columnist Fred Kaplan won a Pulitzer Prize as a reporter for The Boston Globe, and was a finalist for his book The Insurgents. His other books include The Wizards of Armageddon and Daydream Believers.

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