Space aliens arrive early in Conquest and bomb the text with info dumps. These aliens are tall tan dudes with no eyelids, and they come bearing the poSpace aliens arrive early in Conquest and bomb the text with info dumps. These aliens are tall tan dudes with no eyelids, and they come bearing the power to cure cancer, joke about haggis and change point of view several times in the same chapter. Some are good guys. Some are very, very bad aliens indeed. The good ones hook up with the human resistance and introduce YA readers to wormholes, nano bots, androids, psychic powers, blast rifles and other SF staples of the literary world. There's a smooch or two, evil giant generic frog foot soldiers, wicked space witches, some discussion about morality and several good twists once the action takes off.
Critical Mick says: set phasers on fun! Charlie Parker might be on this same planet, but the tone and content of Conquest is worlds away from Connolly's other writing....more
WARNING: The country which invented the Internet is presently the most vulnerable to an attack from it.
In the 1970’s, the US Defense Department’s AdvaWARNING: The country which invented the Internet is presently the most vulnerable to an attack from it.
In the 1970’s, the US Defense Department’s Advanced Research Project Agency (DARPA) laid the groundwork for the Internet. This communications system, initially developed by the military, has over the past 40 years become used by industry, commerce, social networks- almost every aspect of contemporary life. Richard A. Clarke’s Cyber War: The Next Threat to National Security and What to Do About It is a wake-up call written from a White House insider, illustrating what would happen if a foreign power used the Internet against the US. Specifically: crashing the national power grid, SCADA systems (controls for utilities, generators, transformers, pumps, and similar systems), air traffic control, financial databases, and many other components of critical infrastructure which are currently accessible through the Internet and are alarmingly poorly defended.
More than forty nations control dedicated teams of cyber warriors, preparing methods of attack. Cyberspace has become a “battlespace.” While the US has the world’s best internet-based attack capabilities, other nations have superior defenses for their infrastructure. Clarke demonstrates how weapons systems and also the civilian computer networks that manage communications, transport, banking, utilities, can be (and have been- lots of real-world examples) damaged or controlled from a remote location anywhere in the world. Every year additional nations ramp up their cyberwar units- the US, Russia, China, France, North Korea. The world has gone all Die Hard 4.
Cyberwar was initially published in 2010, with this paperback edition released in 2012 with a new appendix about the Stuxnet worm- a real-life proven instance of how the US and Israeli cyberwar units wrote a malicious program to sabotage Iran’s nuclear program. His information is good and corresponds to reading I have done on it as a Computer Information Systems Security Professional. A good start towards more comprehensive details on Stuxnet can be found on Symantec's site. Also see their article on the Stuxnet 0.5: The Missing Link.
This book is certain to be updated with another “told you so!” appendix, as another of Clarke’s major reported real-world cyber attacks has been verified: the People’s Republic of China’s systematic theft of terabytes of R & D data from US military contractors and other companies. (They also hacked into Obama’s campaign computers when he was running for president in 2008, stealing draft policy documents.) In a damningly conclusive report released in February 2013, a computer incident and response company called Mandiant supplied proof that the intrusions and exfiltrations from their customers were state-sponsored hacking from the PRC. Specifically, they tracked a group of thieves they knew as “APT (Advanced Persistent Threat) 1” back to Shanghai and determined it was the 2nd Bureau of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) GSD 3rd Department, commonly known as Unit 61398. That report is highly recommended reading.
Though written for a popular audience rather than a technical one, Cyber War provides accurate detail. Clarke points out that many unexpected devices are connected to the Internet- everything from elevators to photocopiers to valves at power plants. These are intended to “phone home” for maintenance reasons and to avail of software updates, but this connection can be exploited for other purposes.
Rather than just sound the alarm, Cyberwar proposes a Defensive Triad to improve the US’s posture. This book is a call upon Obama to improve security on the national Internet backbone, secure the controls for the national power grids, and vigorously pursue security upgrades for Defense IT systems. It is a message that should be heard by government, industry, and all people depending on the Internet today- which is just about everyone. No surprise that Cyberwar was a big seller.
The book is also filled with Clarke’s insider observations and insights. For example, George Bush I had an ulterior motive for destroying Saddam Hussein’s military might in 1991. The Iraqi army- fourth largest in the world- was equipped with Soviet-designed weaponry. Blasting that to shit (partly through the use of emerging smart technologies) was intended as a demonstration to the Chinese and other nations reliant upon those same types of tanks and guns. The new F-117 Stealth fighter-bombers were used in the 1989 invasion of Panama “because the Pentagon wanted to show off its new weapon to deter others.” (page 194)
George W. Bush was a president who comes off poorly in Cyberwar. Clarke freely admits that NSA under Bush and Cheney routinely performed illegal surveillance and other actions. He reports that Donald Rumsfeld and other Bush Administration officials advocated invading Iraq because Afghanistan did not have enough targets to bomb. George W. Bush was a president who would rush through decisions without giving the matter thought, one who left regulatory commissions vacant so that government security decisions were not enforced, a president who violated the Convention Against Torture and “never saw a covert-action proposal he didn’t like.” (page 114) When considering what actions that nation should take, Bush would defer to the CEOs of companies that had made large political donations to his election committees. True, there were moves to protect the government’s networks on Bush’s watch (Comprehensive National Cybersecurity Initiative and National Security Presidential Decision 54) but crucial time was lost as other nations took greater measures in the emerging field of computer security.
A final note: Clarke confirms (page 93) the CIA’s 1982 sabotage of the Soviet Urengoy–Surgut–Chelyabinsk natural gas pipeline. The KGB had been stealing Western technology: the CIA learned of this and introduced a flaw into automated pump and valve controls. The explosion was the world’s largest non-nuclear explosion- over three kilotons. This explosion occurred in a unpopulated area and so no casualties occurred. This early example of successful SCADA system sabotage demonstrates the potential of what could occur today if nations do not secure their systems correctly. CybrWar is real, with real-world consequences. Successful attacks have been occurring for decades, and will continue throughout this century. ...more