The Perfect Weapon
War, Sabotage, and Fear in the Cyber Age
David E. Sanger
Crown, New York, 2018, 384 pages
Book Review published on: November 16, 2018
David E. Sanger, national security correspondent for the New York Times and author of The Inheritance and Confront and Conceal, provides an insightful perspective chronicling the contemporary history of state-sponsored cyberspace operations in The Perfect Weapon: War, Sabotage, and Fear in the Cyber Age. It is a quick read that is hard to put down. Sanger competently chronicles contemporary cyberspace challenges, threats, and opportunities with just a touch of political bias. He describes how suspected Russian hackers broke into the Democratic National Committee, the White House, the Department of State, and the Joint Chiefs of Staff networks, placing cyber tools in some of our most sensitive networks—those controlling U.S. infrastructure. Thus, it gave them the ability to disrupt power and energy to several regions of the country.
Sanger details how earlier in this century the United States used Operation Olympic Games to destroy centrifuges for nuclear reactors in Iran. However, with every ballistic missile failure in North Korea, we are forced to ask ourselves, “Was that us?” Success breeds new challenges and Sanger describes how some of our most valued and classified cyber tools were stolen and then used against us. As a result, our ability to deter and even respond is often paralyzed, given the vulnerability to severe attacks on the networks that control government, energy, and finance.
Sanger describes how the advent of cyber capabilities has caused a paradigmatic shift in the international security environment. He posits that because they are cheap, relatively easy to acquire, and extremely effective, they have created parity for transnational violent extremist organizations and rogue states such as North Korea. He contends that across the entire spectrum of conflict, cyber weapons can provide a tactical solution for a strategic problem.
I recommend The Perfect Weapon to anyone with an interest in cyberspace in general and military cyberspace operations in particular. Sanger provides a firm historical perspective on the evolution of conflict in cyberspace and how these conflicts have revolutionized the considerations that security strategists—both civilian and military—must make today. However, he removes all doubts as to where his political ideologies align and demonstrates a fair amount of the “Trump Derangement Syndrome.”
Book Review written by: Lt. Col. Robert C. LaPreze, U.S. Army, Retired, Fort Leavenworth, Kansas