Cyber war: the next threat to national security and what to do about it? by Richard A. Clarke and Robert K. Knake

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  • July 2015
    Book Review

    War, in the age of the ‘Revolution in Military Affairs (RMA)’ has changed its nature and tactics. Use of sophisticated systems has made it difficult to penetrate defences. Cyber war, however, appears as a drill to penetrate the defences of nations, because defence against cyber offence is so far not strong. Clarke was the first cyber security advisor to US president George W. Bush (Jr.) from 2001 to 2003 and Knake was a senior officer in the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). This book primarily focuses on US cyberspace security based on their experiences. The authors begin with a few examples of cyber war in the first chapter, ‘Trial Runs’, to support the proposition that ‘[c]yber war may actually increase the likelihood of the more traditional combat with explosives, bullets and missiles’ (p. 7). Among other things, Israel’s surprise strike on a suspected Syrian nuclear facility construction site in 2007 without being detected by Syrian RADAR, demoralisation of Iraqi soldiers by sending reverse order emails through US hacking of the Iraqi Ministry of Defence (MoD) e-mail system in the second Gulf War, the use of Distributed Denial of Service (DDOS) as a weapon by Russia in the Georgian crisis, and a massive DDOS attack by North Korea on the US have increased states’ threat perception. Hence, significant changes have occurred in the age of cyber war. Firstly, it has brought about a change in asymmetrical war, because a small state can threaten a big power via cyberspace. Secondly, it has blurred the differences between wartime and peacetime because battle preparation is not visible and, most importantly, establishment of cyber military command by different countries has made cyber war a formidable reality.