I did an online search of the words “Hackers” today and the top results were news stories about (yet another) bank being hacked — perhaps by a group closely associated with North Korea — and stolen passwords from social media sites offered for sale or being released online. I typically see several headlines like this during any given week, and the frequency of hacking reports has only increased over the past few years.
So, when I saw Dark Territory: The Secret History of Cyber War by Fred Kaplan (@fmkaplan) I decided to take a look to increase my limited knowledge on this subject. I found the book to be an excellent primer on the subject, and very readable. Anyone concerned about getting lost in highly technical details need not worry: this is history, not how-to.
Dark Territory begins with a wonderfully apt anecdote about President Ronald Reagan taking in the movie WarGames in 1983 (full disclosure: it’s one of my favorite movies of that time period) before backtracking to address two landmark events: the creation of the computer network in 1967 and the founding of the National Security Agency in 1952.
From there the book follows a fairly linear course through key events in the years since 1990, beginning with the first Iraq War. I was aware of some of the incidents described but learned about a lot more. For me the only frustrating passages were the ones describing yet another US government committee or working group formed to review the threat of cyber attacks and provide recommendations. Yes, I know that’s how our bureaucracy ‘works,’ but still.
One point that I appreciated Mr. Kaplan making more than once was the recognition by key figures that whatever actions our government takes in the realm of cyber warfare are also actions that can be taken against us: there is a extremely fine line between offense and defense in the cyber domain.
As our world becomes increasingly more connected and controlled by machines, cyber security is a subject we’re all going to need to be smarter about. Dark Territory is a great introduction for those wanting to get started.
Note: I don’t spend as much time on reviews of traditionally published books as I do those of Indie authors.