Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Book Review Preview – “Cyber War,” by Richard A. Clarke and Robert K. Knape, 2010

Written by two gentlemen from intentionally disparate generations – a tricenarian (someone in their 30’s) and a sexagenarian (someone in their 60’s), as though modeling for us the evolution from a relatively theoretical threat to a very real one, unpeel not only the chronological journey but also the practical impact of a modern day cyber war. Imagine your city’s system of traffic signals being out of sync due to lengthy blackouts, or your financial records being rearranged or pipe system exploding??
Yes, indeed, this would be a different kind of war. Authors Clarke and Knape posit that US civilians have one of the greatest chances of high impact in such a cyber war, and in fact, that countries are already positioning themselves for battle. And these writers should know – Clarke served as a counterterrorism advisor to both Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, and Knape won a prestigious Fellowship at the Council on Foreign Relations to study cyber war.
Our own Pentagon, the authors recap, admit to thousands of “pings” a day upon their computer armor – probes from foreign computers seeking to penetrate where weaknesses may lie. And on occasion, they succeed – fighter planes not yet in the air have had their details hacked into. And our nation’s very own computer supply chain is global and not necessarily trustworthy they point out… (for example, even while you’re reading this article, your computer could be “drafted” into a cyber war against a foreign bank, without your even being aware).
Some solutions are presented that may benefit readers – for instance, if you’re going to make purchases online, use a card with a low limit used solely for that purpose, they suggest; use your work computer at work, and your home computer at home; and make sure your online bank uses more than just a password for its security protection. But how would one protect from the story outlined in Cyber War?
Their book describes a supposedly hypothetical scenario where hackers incapacitate the US from behind their computer screens. In an NPR “Fresh Air” interview, author Clarke admits he cannot explain why such a hypothetical situation hasn’t already come to pass . Couple that fact with the point that the government is predominantly focused on protecting our nation’s defense capabilities… This writer can’t help but reminisce upon the Y2K preparations and wonder about the value of their revival…
Reviewing, Cyber War: The Next Threat To National Security And What To Do About It, Copyright 2010, by Richard A. Clarke and Robert K. Knape, published by Harper Collins, and as reviewed on NPR.org.
Sue B Martines, J.D.

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