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Worm: The First Digital World War
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Worm: The First Digital World War

3.54  ·  Rating details ·  1,810 Ratings  ·  268 Reviews
From the author of "Black Hawk Down" comes the story of the battle between those determined to exploit the internet and those committed to protect itthe ongoing war taking place literally beneath our fingertips.
The Conficker worm infected its first computer in November 2008 and within a month had infiltrated 1.5 million computers in 195 countries. Banks, telecommunication
Hardcover, 233 pages
Published September 27th 2011 by Atlantic Monthly Press (first published January 1st 2011)
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Will Byrnes
There is a war being waged in the world today. Not one of the many you read about in newspapers (or newsfeeds) or the ones you see on your televisions and computer screens. This war is going on while we sleep, eat our breakfasts and go about our business, in our cities and suburbs, in the homes of our major industries, in our home computers. Forget the annoying daily viruses that attack, primarily, Windows systems, spewing unwanted spam; forget the unwanted pop-ups that emanate from the same sou ...more
Amar Pai
Jun 13, 2012 rated it did not like it
Conficker is the "first Digital World War?!" Get the f*** out of here. Ugh, I knew I remembered Mark Bowden from somewhere. He wrote Black Hawk Down. Not a bad book but you can't shoehorn every damn phenomenon into the category of "war"! As the saying goes, when you have a hammer, everything looks like a nail.

This book is an utter waste of time. If you're interested in the subject you already know everything in it. Do we really need yet another recounting of the internet's origins, ARPANET etc?
May 01, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: business, technology
I have learned some very basic, geeks how could you know it, information. Definitely written for those of us who have little clue on how a computer works.
By adulthood most of us know that if you cannot imagine the end result, don'the start. Well, the Internet began before those doing the connecting thought about security. Considering that the early connectors were the government and large universities,the lack of security shows a lack of maturity. So now we are playing catch-up with barely effe
Nov 27, 2012 rated it did not like it
This book was simultaneously pandering and condescending, plus one of the more melodramatic books I've read in a long time. It's aimed squarely (and I think cynically) at "geeks" and "nerds" who apparently know nothing about computers. Despite almost every single example of an "uber nerd" in the book being basically the opposite of a stereotypical basement-dweller, Bowden treats it as if that's a massive surprise as every new character is introduced. He constantly refers to "the glaze" and "the ...more
Sep 30, 2011 rated it it was ok
This book was Ok. I decided to read it after hearing him speak on Fresh Air. I felt like he did an Ok job of conveying technical information to a presumably non-technical audience. The author will be the first to admit that he's not a technical person, and unfortunately, I do think this comes across in his writing - you can tell that he spent some time coming to understand the various complicated issues involved, but I think that an author who has a more technical background would be able to use ...more
Ben Vogel
Jan 30, 2012 rated it really liked it
An account of the Conficker worm written for everyman and a pretty excellent primer on computer viruses. I enjoyed learning this stuff from Bowden who handles the technical subject with his usual deft prose. Entertaining and quick moving for 80% of the book. If you feel like skimming through the parts where it details the personality battles between the major players, no one will mind. I found them interesting too.
May 19, 2018 rated it really liked it
HIghly readable and fascinating account of a real cyber attack, the first of its kind. If you liked Stoll's Cuckoo's Egg, you will like this. Now I want to go to school for a new degree!
Michelle Blackburn
Jan 09, 2018 rated it liked it
A computer book I understood, my guys will be so proud! An eye opening look behind the scenes at what we take for granted.
Lee Penney
Aug 06, 2014 rated it it was ok
The subtitle for this book is: The First Digital World War. That’s overstating it, to be honest. The book focuses on the creation of the world’s largest botnet by a worm called Conficker back in 2008.

At its peak, it was estimated to have infected between 9 and 15 million machines, and even as late as 2011 was still on roughly 1.7 million. That made it the largest botnet recorded. If all of the devices were used to transmit data together, there was a real possibility it would have overwhelmed the
Oct 04, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: science
WORM: The First Digital World War. (2011). Mark Bowden. ***.
The author is a “science” writer, and attempts to let his reader in on the secrets of the computer threat called the “worm.” During his explanations, he describes the “glaze” that often appears on the faces of the non-computer student when a computer techie tries to explain how things inside a computer work. After about fifty pages of this book, I had acquired the “glaze” to such an extent that I had to go wash my face. I got a kick ou
Oct 01, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2011, first-reads
Bowen's latest is an extremely readable, quick history of the Conficker "worm" or malware virus and a loose-knit group of technologues who banded together to defeat it. If you're a technology-illiterate skeptic like me (who, on your worst days, borders on Kaczynski-esque delirium), reading Bowen's elucidation of the internet's inherent fragility will not surprise you.

You may be surprised, however, by how readily you catch on to the usually opaque matter of network administration and such digi-ho
Sep 15, 2011 rated it liked it
Who could have imagined that the entire Internet almost went poof and no one really knew or cared about it? But it did, and the fact remains that it could still happen today, or tomorrow, or in 100 years from now. This book details the effort to stop and contain the biggest and most potentially destructive computer worm ever to hit the Internet. Dubbed Conficker the worm has infected millions of computers around the world, and it was being fought by a small group of computer programmers who coul ...more
Sep 16, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: first-reads
The author does a good job of making a “geek” tale readable and interesting. Some humor and drama kept me involved in the story. Generally, the techy aspects are handled with enough detail to challenge the reader without creating the "glaze".

The characters are very well developed and the reader can relate to their motives and commitment. Even given that there is some exaggeration, the electronic society is fortunate indeed that these men exist. If you are not already diligent about maintaining a
Mark Sequeira
Dec 06, 2011 rated it really liked it
This book is made better by Mark Bowden's writing style. Author of Blackhawk Down he keeps the binary code and TCP/IP, etc. to understandable amounts to avoid that glassy stare...still, this is a book about Nerds and geeks, even super-smart geeks. And be glad we have them. This book details their fight against one of the worst computer viruses to date, the Conflicker Worm. I won't ruin the story for you by telling you how it ends but computers worldwide are still infected and could still be take ...more
Jan 21, 2017 rated it really liked it
About a computer worm that created the largest botnet in history, capable of taking down the entire internet, and the cabal of volunteers that tried to fight it. Like most modern wars, this battle doesn't have a clear ending. At its height the worm had infected 10 million computers, and today it still commands a formidable botnet of 400,000. I enjoyed reading about the in-depth investigation and the story behind it. Will be reading more "books about a single event or thing" this year since I lik ...more
Oct 23, 2013 rated it really liked it
I'm not tech-savvy in the slightest. I can open word and Firefox on my old laptop, but that's about as far as my knowledge extends. I also don't read non-fiction very often, so when reading a book like this one I'm not sure what I'm supposed to keep an eye out for, what to question or where to direct my criticism.

That all being said, I found this book extraordinarily interesting and engaging. It gave me a look into a world I know little to nothing about and captured my imagination.
Apr 06, 2012 rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2012-reads
This is a breezy read but I didn't learn much beyond what I did from reading Bowden's Atlantic article. And unless one wants to know what members of the anti-Conficker Cabal looked like (especially, strangely, their hair), then reading the article is probably a better use of one's time. And it had fewer typos.
May 17, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: computers
A solid piece of journalism. As far reaching as the event described was even the author is aware of its appearance of having come to nothing. The result is an anticlimactic story. Yet, it was a significant event which has done permanent damage and the implications are frightening. Read this if you are interested in computers and want a view of the people protecting the internet.
Wendy Ballard
Jan 03, 2017 rated it it was amazing
What a fascinating book! I know just enough to get through work and life using a computer. This book shows so much we DON'T know and, while it's scary, it's good to be enlightened. It's a book that hasn't lost its timeliness. Anything else I say wouldn't be worthwhile, except that if you use a computer at all, you need to read this book to prepare yourself.
Jun 06, 2018 rated it it was ok
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Ryan Lackey
FFS, no. This book is essentially about the Conficker worm/botnet from some years ago. Conficker is reasonably interesting as a subject, but this book is painful for two reasons. First, it's basically a book about a nerdy topic, for nerds, who know nothing about anything in this area -- sort of like writing a military book with lots of military topic for people who have never read a military memoir and who know nothing about the military or related topics. It's simultaneously too detailed and to ...more
Mar 28, 2018 rated it really liked it
This was a 3.5 for me. I am one of those people who know about the internet, but really have no clue as to how it operates; I just click and it's there for me. So, I definitely learned something about the internet's creation, how it works, etc. As for the worm, it was interesting to learn about in some parts, but dragged on in others; also, the cat-fights between the "tribe" members got to be a bit irritating. I think the fact that the worm (luckily) actually didn't cause much damage made for an ...more
George Davidson
Nov 09, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: infosec-cybersec
Worm was a well told tale of recent Cyber fight against a botnet named Conficker, by a motley band of Internet and security Gurus. Overall sheds some light on the lack of "officially" coordinated cyber efforts around securing the infrastructure as a whole, while lacking a sort of satisfaction as to a conclusion of what happens with the worm. We never learn who created it, why, etc.

Overall the book was big on build up, and short on resolution, but had some great insights into the cyber warriors w
Rick Radinsky
Jan 20, 2017 rated it really liked it
I think the title is a tad hyperbolic. The story itself is interesting, along with the primer the book provides on the history of networking and how viruses work. The topic definitely has the potential to lead to "The Glaze", as the book refers to the look people get due to the disinterest/ignorance when it comes to this topic. Bowden, as he's proven he has the talent to do, tells a tale that never becomes boring. And now, I have an even healthier respect for strong computer security practices, ...more
Aug 20, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
In 2008, a new virus (Conficker) was detected that made use of a wide range of familiar techniques in a new and particularly innovative way to make it very stable and hard to stop the spread of.

As the potential danger of the botnet it was creating became clear, an ad-hoc group of industry pros and researchers got together to build defenses against it - requiring the first ever global collaboration of a wide variety of technology organizations with diverse interests.

As of today, the worm/botnet s
Ben Denison
Jun 08, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: library
Pretty nerdy, but fascinating, recounting of the early days of cyber-security and the rise of worms/viruses/bots to infect computers and the internet. But, really more of a wake up call for the need for more security and for the government to get off their duffs and pay attention to their own systems' security.

Love Mark Bowden's still of writing and telling a story. I've read about half his books, and will read them all.
Stuart Robinson
Nov 16, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Probably a little out of date now (6y since being published), yet it still provides a great insight into the threats of cyber - warfare that exist and also speaks highly of the, largely, volunteer team that polices the net and its infrastructure
Den Warren
May 21, 2018 rated it it was amazing
To me, this book was exciting and informative. It helps to have a little tech background to follow it.
Chris Casey
Apr 06, 2018 rated it really liked it
Wow! Good read? Yes! But damn, my world just got a lot darker.
George Lai
Jul 26, 2017 rated it did not like it
50 pages in and it's so dryyy.
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Mark Robert Bowden (born July 17, 1951) is an American writer who is currently a contributing editor at Vanity Fair. Born in St. Louis, Missouri, and a 1973 graduate of Loyola College in Maryland, Bowden was a staff writer for The Philadelphia Inquirer from 1979-2003, and has won numerous awards. He has written for Men's Journal, The Atlantic Monthly, Sports Illustrated, and Rolling Stone over the ...more
More about Mark Bowden
“These problems have been here so long that the only way I’ve been able to function at all is by learning to ignore them. Else I would be in a constant state of panic, unable to think or act constructively.” 17 likes
“It is harder to defend a computer than to attack it.” 1 likes
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