As much as it pains me to write this, it could be true that Joe Lieberman is indeed right. Bear with me and I’ll explain. My latest book exploit was with Richard Clarke’s Cyber War. Clarke worked for Clinton and Bush and well, you probably saw him saying “I told you so,” shortly after 9-11. Indeed, Clarke was one of the few administration officials who was waving his arms about the potential threat from bin Laden. Since then, he’s made a career talking about the horizon–as in what threats are out there on the horizon that could spell disaster for America.
Cyber War certainly explains how vulnerable we are to what could also be called online terrorism. Gone are the days of fighting countries–this book details a future where we could be fighting against evil spammers. We’ve all seen movies where cyber war topics were raised, but this book pulls them all together and leaves you with the attitude that we should just unplug and put all our money in the mattress. A full-scale cyber attack on the US is downright scary. Planes crashing, banks failing, trains colliding, and all sorts of other nightmare scenarios could be enabled merely be some very sophisticated hacking. According to Clarke, the US is overly reliant on online technology that was built without enough attention to nightmare security scenarios. He makes a good case.
That said, I didn’t like the book all that much. His point could have been accomplished in a New Yorker article or a Brookings Institution paper. I didn’t need 258 pages of it. I got it pretty early on (right about when the hacker started to crash planes–and yes, Clarke references Die Hard 2).
Ok, back to Lieberman. Among Clarke’s many suggestions about protecting America from cyber warfare, he recommends that China’s “kill switch” is actually worth pursuing. I first heard about this when Jon Stewart (one of my heroes) made fun of Joe Lieberman’s suggestion of the same thing. The premise–if America is attacked by cyber terrorists, wouldn’t we be safer if we could just disconnect everyone from the internet? So a virus, threat or attack couldn’t spread further? It’s an interesting idea. What it means is that in minutes, a end of days virus could stop every computer and consequently every important infrastructure system in the US. (Stewart does a nice job of making fun of the whole thing.)
Anyway, I recommend going online and reading some reviews and articles about this book. Don’t bother buying the whole thing. Which gets me to this post from the Mercantile Library’s blog–Stacked. It’s about a topic I have mused about before–what do you do when you are reading a book you don’t like that much? Enjoy. See you in a few days with a blog about Last Call, Daniel Okrent’s excellent book about prohibition. It’s one I am having no trouble reading.