Thursday, April 22, 2010

Cyber War: The Next Threat to National Security and What to Do About It

As an Information Technology (IT) guy, I found Cyber War to be quite interesting. While I usually dislike the term "Cyber", I guess it's the best way to describe the topic so the majority of people know what Clarke is referring to. It may be a shock to many readers just how interconnected everything has become, and the author does a good job of explaining how some systems are not actually on the Internet, but can be accessed from another computer that is. While he primarily covers strategies in the book, he does present scenarios that may scare people. For example, if you thought the plane you were flying across the country on could fall out of the sky anytime due to a hacker, would you still fly?

My main concern with the book isn't really what he write about, but rather what he doesn't touch on. He spends a lot of time comparing a "cyber" strategy to the Cold War strategy. My complaint is that while he makes them sound very related, he forgets a very important difference. In the Cold War, only a powerful government could launch a nuclear missile. In a Cyber War, just because the U.S. government may decide to not take action, does not mean that a citizen will. If you are a skilled computer guy, or a "hacker" to use the authors term, you could decide to initiate or retaliate a response without the government even knowing it. I can only assume this wasn't covered in the book because it would just complicate the strategy even more than it already is.

While the book may be too technical for some and not technical enough for others, it does a good job of laying down the foundation for a national discussion. Considering the state of the economy, I think most of us realize how quickly things can go from bad to worse, and our financial markets are extremely susceptible to this new threat. I hope the book will get more people thinking about the issue, and I'm sure that was Clarke's primary objective in writing it.

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