Cyberwar Armageddon hasn’t happened yet, but it’s coming, according to this disturbing but convincing journalistic chronicle.
Wired senior writer Greenberg (This Machine Kills Secrets: How WikiLeakers, Cypherpunks, and Hacktivists Aim To Free the World's Information, 2012) begins in 2014, when an analyst at a small, private intelligence firm learned of a security flaw in Microsoft Office, “one of the world’s most ubiquitous pieces of software,” and Russian malware designed to take advantage of it. Reverse engineering soon revealed that this malicious software, Sandworm, was not the usual effort to spread disinformation or steal data but was instead meant to cause physical damage. The analyst, Greenberg writes, considered this a whole new ball game: “Like many others in the cybersecurity industry, and particularly those with a military background, he’d been expecting cyberwar’s arrival: a new era that would finally apply hackers’ digital abilities to the older, more familiar worlds of war and terrorism.” In 42 short chapters, the author chronicles his travels around the world, with an emphasis on Ukraine, to describe the consequences of Sandworm and the efforts of software experts to analyze, ward off, and (ultimately) repair the damage. Ukraine, a test bed for cyberwarfare, remains in the crosshairs of Russian leader Vladimir Putin, who ordered the invasion of Crimea in 2014, supports a nasty insurgency in border areas, and opposes closer Ukrainian ties with Western Europe and NATO. Since the invasion, Russian hackers have been honing their skills on Ukraine’s infrastructure, shutting down electric grids, internet, railroads, hospitals, and even ATMs. Confident that America’s systems are less vulnerable and hobbled by Donald Trump’s clear admiration of Putin, U.S. leaders have downplayed the risk, although Russia and a host of other hackers are already flexing their muscles and wreaking havoc across the world. Throughout, Greenberg writes in the fast-paced style that characterized his first book, and while the narrative is occasionally scattershot, he effectively captures the disturbing nature of this new global threat.
A credible, breathless account of the discovery and defeat (perhaps) of major Russian computer cyberattacks.