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Countdown to Zero Day: Stuxnet and the Launch of the World's First Digital Weapon

4.11  ·  Rating details ·  3,140 Ratings  ·  384 Reviews
Top cybersecurity journalist Kim Zetter tells the story behind the virus that sabotaged Iran’s nuclear efforts and shows how its existence has ushered in a new age of warfare—one in which a digital attack can have the same destructive capability as a megaton bomb.
In January 2010, inspectors with the International Atomic Energy Agency noticed that centrifuges at an Iran
Kindle Edition, 448 pages
Published November 11th 2014 by Crown (first published June 3rd 2014)
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Christopher Anderson
Pretty good for the first 2/3 of the book. Especially interesting if you work in technology. What hurt the book was the last 1/3 of it - in which the author essentially repeated a few things page after page. It was pointless. I have a flaw that makes it very difficult for me NOT to finish a book, and I paid the price on this one.
Jun 02, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science
Another audiobook from my walks.

Cyber warfare. It sounds like a movie plot or a good science fiction book. But it is real, very real as it turns out. Computer hacking has matured from hackers turning on sprinklers inside schools after falling for the “Did you see the swimming pool on the roof?” prank. Hacking has moved from pranks, to stealing identities and funds, to now destroying the infrastructures of nations. Once again, it is America that launched a weapon capable of mass destruction firs
Dennis Murphy
Dec 31, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I began reading Countdown to Zero Day thinking it would be a more detailed exploration of the Stuxnet attack against the Iranian uranium enrichment program. That program is a key part of Iran’s nuclear weapons program as it enables Iran to produce bomb grade uranium. Stuxnet was(is) a worm that sought out target computers controlling the Iranian centrifuges and then assumed control of the centrifuges, interfering with the production of uranium hexafluoride gas and causing the destruction of the ...more
Amar Pai
Nov 08, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Honestly, if I were rating the book strictly on its own merits it would only be 3 stars, because it feels like a magazine length article stretched to book form. But 4 stars is lifetime achievement award, because Zetter has been the best mainstream reporter working on this story (and the security beat in general) for a while now. She really gets the details right, and I'm glad a reporter of her caliber tackled this story. I STILL years later am thinking about Stuxnet. It was, and is, an absolutel ...more
Andrew Obrigewitsch
NSA Agent Num 1: So you remember that really bad idea for a weapon that nearly destroyed the planet that we came up with in the 1940s?
NSA Agent Num 2: Yeah, what about it?
NSA Agent Num 1: I have an idea just as bad as that one.
NSA Agent Num 2: Wow, what is it, we better get everyone we can on something that wonderful.
NSA Agent Num 1: We should create a virus that will take control of systems in a facility in another country and destroy them, not only will this show hackers all around the worl
Sep 14, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Best non fiction book of 2014. The entire story of this digital weapon and the aftermath of if it, including the new questions raised going forward was a really compelling tell. By making it read like a really intense mystery narrative it transcended the typically dry fact based story that some books about digital technology find themselves in. One part of me while reading wished that the outcome hadnt already been known and that the US could have been successful in keeping Stuxnet underwraps wh ...more
Cliff Mccollum
Nov 21, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I loved the first 4/5's of the book - in which the real story of Stuxnet is told. The last 1/5 is a somewhat tedious timeline of events without much narrative to support it; while interesting, it wasn't nearly as good as the rest of the book. Still, I can easily recommend this if you are interested at all in Cyber-warfare, computer viruses, or the curious relationship between the US and Iran in the first decade of the 21st century.
Nick Black
not a great achievement in research or writing or insight or anything, but a pretty competent assembly of timelines and people. feels like it could have been a much more compelling 35-page michael lewis vanity fair article.
Matt Neely
Feb 03, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Great read on Stuxnet and digital weapons/cyber war. The author did a great job writing a book that is appealing and understandable to non-technical readers while still giving enough details to be of value to someone with in-depth knowledge of cybersecurity. If you want to learn more about these topics this book is a great starting point.
Doug Cornelius
We were in a cyber war with Iran. Kim Zetter unravels the story of Stuxnet, the US computer attack on Iran's nuclear program in Countdown to Zero Day.

A few months ago, I read A Time to Attack: The Looming Iranian Nuclear Threat urging a US military attack on Iran. That book highlighted how Iran had been building a nuclear program for several years. That included several years of centrifuges spinning to extract enriched uranium.

It has taken so long to extract uranium because, according to Zetter,
 Charlie - A Reading Machine
Top grade cyber thriller made all the more fascinating by being real. I'm not a techie at all but Zetter has a real gift of turning often complicated and detailed machine/code babble, into something easy and palatable for a reader like myself.

It really is a great story and we get to see the full scope from its beginnings, inception, it's destructive phase and the aftermath. One of the things that was so awesome was the fact that this computer virus actually caused things to physically destroy th
Drill-sergeant Brown
The first shot on the bow of any international conflict will probably be some kind of sophisticated cyber attack. This book presents an egaging account of the goings on in the dark web and the dedication of tireless 'security researchers' who spend hundreds of hours making sense of these attacks.
Kit Pang
Dec 12, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A world that I never knew about. Although, the writing is packed with computer/technology terms in the beginning, this book is worth it.

Read on to see where our society is heading...
Dmytro Shteflyuk
Jun 10, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: security
One scary book filled with technical details of the Stuxnet malware and political landscape leading to its development. Was a very interesting read.
Cid Medeiros
Aug 12, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A bit of history on malicious code, intertwined with the geopolitics of nuclear weapons, is developed in the narrative as the background for that which is considered to be the first cyber weapon known to the public. A rich contribution to understand why and how cybersecurity got so important for state nations around the world as well as it's coming-of-military issue. One key reason to read this book is the ability it will provide you to grasp what is really behind the news headlines surrounding ...more
Carol Ann
Feb 27, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I first heard about this book on Jenny Colvin's Reading Envy Podcast Episode 109 with guest Scott Danielson and knew right away that I had to read it.

It's an intriguing story that had me on the edge of my seat for most of the book. It moves at a good pace and alternates between solving the mystery of the who, what, where, and why of Stuxnet, and the historical facts about the players and targets.

It was eye-opening to discover that the U.S. and Israel joined forces to covertly develop digital w
Paul Anheier
Apr 23, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Right up there with Schlosser's Command and Control on the It's-Amazing-We're-All-Still-Alive Meter.

A bit more repetition in the last third than I would've liked, but the retelling from another perspective was useful.
May 16, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: security
Kim Zetter did a good job of making one thing at least abundantly clear: Any party with enough funding and motivation can breach the security of any system no matter how remote the system is or how complex the task of doing so might be.

Stuxnet has marked a new era in cybersecurity, in a way that pretty much every malware designed before it is BS—Before Stuxnet. It's an intricate, vicious and remarkable cyber weapon designed by NSA and the 8200 Israeli unit to slow down and set back the Iranian n
William Nist
Jul 04, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
If you have had any kind of a malware on your personal computer, you can imagine what chaos that could be caused if clandestine programmers managed to infiltrate a country's more critical infrastructure. Well, its happening now and it could be the future of warfare.

The fascinating, if somewhat scattered account of STUXNET, a zero day cyber-weapon, chronicles the attack of the US and Israel on the centrifuges of Iran, trying to slow down the progress that country was making in producing weapon's
Dec 07, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Fascinating and detailed account of the discovery and workings of the Stuxnet malware, which appears to have succeeded in delaying Iranian uranium enrichment efforts by several years. However, it also demonstrated a new kind of cyberweapon and raises serious questions about the vulnerability of our infrastructure (power grid, drinking and waste water, chemical plants, refineries, internet..).

The book chronicles the discovery of the various stages of Stuxnet, how it managed to attack air-gapped,
Dec 07, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
There are two possible audiences for this book: geeks like me and folks who are interested in the current state of affairs on the Internet.

I've been involved with computers since before the term "hacker" took on a darker meaning. Hackers used to be good guys.
But beside that, the technical details of the whole episode are fascinating. I believe anyone could read and enjoy the book as
long as the realize there are technical terms they should stop lookup (Ask Dr. Google).

I think everyone would prof
Oct 25, 2015 rated it it was amazing
This is an incredibly well written account of the unprecedented launch of malicious code as a weapon to hit a foreign nation. Kim Zetter provides thorough details of Stuxnet's execution and the damage it caused, plus a good history of the Iranian nuclear program and the exasperating attempts to monitor its progress. More interesting though is the story behind the digital detective work that uncovered the weapon as its infection spread. What could have been a horribly dull and tedious work full o ...more
Kevin Anderson
Dec 31, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: entertainment
I thought this was a good book. Although at times it seemed a little conspiracy driven, it brought up some really relevant questions and concerns. Especially in light of recent events from California's water treatment plant being hacked ( to FBI hacking the iPhone (, what are the obligations of government in disclosing vulnerabilities they discover to U.S. firms and controllers?
Ryan Lackey
Mar 18, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
An excellent account of Stuxnet. As a subject matter expert employed in the field, I watched this intently as it unfolded, and was familiar with much of the material in the book, but still found it enjoyable and informative. For anyone who hasn't been following Stuxnet and related issues closely, this book would be an excellent introduction. Even without a technical background, it would be easy to follow the human and political implications.

(Second book I've read this year (audible audiobook, in
Excellent read. So interesting and informative. My only regret is that while the audiobook was good, I think reading it in print would have been even better since at at times, I had a lot of trouble with the timeilnes in audio when in print, I could have just flipped a few pages and checked some dates. I'd probably read the print sometime in the future since I'm curious to follow some of the notes.
The research done was impressive, and the author made two complex topics, analysis of the cyber we
Erlan Wheeler
Nov 26, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2014
The book does not make the best thriller nor the best informative account of computer issues, but it is the best book I've read at blending the two genres. Rather than take out Iran's nuclear program with bombs, assailants used amazingly complex computer viruses and cleverness to just as effectively shut down that program. It makes you realize just how much we depend on computers, how our feeling of safety is illusory, and how complex is the world in which we live.
Oct 27, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Good information, but the author is way too fond of footnotes (which interrupt the flow of the text) and puts all her sources there without endnotes or a bibliography (which is very frustrating because there are a lot of interesting sources cited and it's impossible to get at them without combing through every page of the text).
Roberto Rigolin F Lopes
Here we have a thrilling plot and a very good storyteller. Zetter goes beyond stuxnet with a vivid narrative of historical, technical and political contexts. The whole thing is entertaining (should also be alarming) because of how the events were knitted together. You may also feel motivated to become an expert in malware analysis. Hoping for peace between Iran and Israel though.
Ben Dougherty
This is a great book, and was fascinating in many ways, but I think the story could have been told a little more succinctly. The prose is a little wandering at times, and contains a little too much detail for the curious but non-technical reader. None the less, it was a fascinating and very readable account of an event that marks a change in the future of warfare.
Miki Herscovici
Jan 27, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Well written although a bit repetitive at times. Also succeeded to scare me more than a little bit. I now wonder what amount of undetected shit is currently hanging around in my computer, despite being protected by antivirus, firewall, and malware detectors...
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“As Mike McConnell, the former director of national intelligence, told a US Senate committee in 2011, “If the nation went to war today, in a cyberwar, we would lose. We’re the most vulnerable. We’re the most connected. We have the most to lose.” 3 likes
“But withholding information about vulnerabilities in US systems so that they can be exploited in foreign ones creates a schism in the government that pits agencies that hoard and exploit zero days against those, like the Department of Homeland Security, that are supposed to help secure and protect US critical infrastructure and government systems.” 2 likes
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