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There Will Be Cyberwar: How The Move To Network-Centric War Fighting Has Set The Stage For Cyberwar by Richard Stiennon

Read this book if you are looking for a summary of the attacks and cyber incidents that have occurred over the past 20 years in government, military, critical infrastructure and business. It also provides numerous concise examples of security controls that are needed to combat the attacks described in the book.

Don’t read this book if your focus is ICS. There is a bit of information on ICS incident, but not enough to justify reading for that purpose and you will find minor problems with the ICS text. Don’t read this book if you are looking primarily for a discussion and analysis of the future of “cyberwar”.

With the exception of the fictional scenario in Chapter 1 most of the book is focused on synopsis of past incidents. It does however convincingly make the case that weapons systems, communication systems and many other elements required to effectively fight a war are now connected to networks, more reliant on software and therefore subject to a cyber attack.

Given the title, There Will Be Cyberwar, and in light of Thomas Rid’s Cyberwar Will Not Take Place it is almost mandatory to see if Richard made his case and why the two authors come to diametrically opposed conclusions.

The answer is actually simple. The two authors have very different definitions for cyberwar. Thomas spent a lot of time defining war and then cyberwar in his book, and he made a convincing case why this definition of cyberwar will not be met. Read the book and listen to my podcast with Thomas to understand this point of view.

Richard has a much less stringent definition of what constitutes cyberwar.

Cyberwar is the use of computer and network attacks to further the goals of a war-fighting apparatus.

Richard has made the case clearly in his book that based on this definition cyberwar will happen and incidents have probably already occurred that would meet this definition.

I’ve heard no dispute that cyber weapons will be used in wartime, just a dispute over the term cyberwar.

A more interesting question is will we see a use of cyber weapons in war that is akin to the Battle of Britain / air warfare? I first heard this question from Jason Healey of the Atlantic Council in a panel discussion. The Battle of Britain proved that air power alone could be used to win a major battle. Will we see a major battle fought entirely in the cyber domain?

Richard also describes what would constitute a Cyber Pearl Harbor in the book.

It is not the destruction of the power grid, or the loss of communications from attacks against the Internet and telecom infrastructure, or even the collapse of the stock market that deservers Panetta’s dire warning. Only a crippling military defeat thanks to overwhelming control of the cyber domain deserves to be labeled a Cyber Pearl Harbor.

I believe the last sentence is a better definition of cyberwar, and perhaps a slightly modified version of the earlier definition is better for cyber weapons. In the end most of the disagreement is definitions, and this is less interesting or important than how cyber weapons will be created, deployed and used as well as defended against.

Note: I read the Kindle version on an iPad Mini 3 Kindle app. The formatting is wrong, but not so wrong to make the book unreadable on that device and still worth the convenience and savings over the print version for me.