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

4.15  ·  Rating details ·  5,419 ratings  ·  558 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
Paperback, 448 pages
Published September 1st 2015 by Broadway Books (first published June 3rd 2014)
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mkay313 It should be fine. There's some mentioning of sensitive content as far as I can remember (assassinations) but it mostly focuses on the exploit itself,…moreIt should be fine. There's some mentioning of sensitive content as far as I can remember (assassinations) but it mostly focuses on the exploit itself, how it had been detected, and its repercussions.(less)
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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.
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
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
Will Semin
Oct 07, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
For a SOFTWARE engineer of any level, this book has a lot of great ideas to make your code more readable and maintainable. I wish I had DSICOVERED it earlier.
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
Alex Givant
Excellent story about Iran's nuclear project and how USA/Israel sabotaged it by all means (including cyber- and physical-attacks on people involved with the program). ...more
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. ...more
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.
Executive Summary: A bit longer than I'd have liked, going deeper into history on some things than I was interested in, but the tech stuff was pretty fascinating. 3.5 stars.

Audiobook: For fiction I always want a memorable narrator, but for nonfiction someone forgettable is best. I want the story to speak for itself. I thought Joe Ochman fit the bill nicely for me.

Full Review
I'm always fascinated by computer history, and the story behind Stuxnet is both fascinating and terrifying. Here we are
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,
(3.5) Started off well (could've been 4 or 4.5), following the researchers uncovering stuxnet's secrets, then covered a lot of side topics and eventually sort of retold the whole story chronologically with repetition and speculation

Lots of research went into this (resulting in some excellent footnotes--to the point that many of them should've just been included in the main text). I enjoyed the investigative aspect, following VirusBlokAda, Symantec, Kaspersky as they teased apart how the worm spr
Sep 10, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Super interesting read, really gives a good understanding of the technical side of stuxnet as well as how it has/can impact tension and policies between countries.
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.
 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. ...more
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...
Dale Lehman
Mar 28, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is the story of the first and so far only digital weapon to be used. Stuxnet played havoc with centrifuges used by Iran to refine uranium for its nuclear program, a program many feared was intended to produce nuclear weapons. The story is far more complex and convoluted than you may have read in the news, and it raises profound questions about government policy and the future of warfare. Kim Zetter, Wired's award-winning journalism, takes us down the rabbit hole to explore what is known--an ...more
Sandro Eich
Aug 24, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Thankfully I have found a little non-fiction gem in this book. Recently I have been trying to revitalise my interest for non-fiction books which started out quite badly with another book I dnf'ed. This book, however, read like a crime novel, based on journalistic expertise. At times, I struggled with the abbreviations the author used (one of which is "ISIS" standing for Institute for Science and International Safety, a quite unfortunate choice of abbreviation in hindsight). However, as a whole, ...more
Nov 19, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Never has the realm of cyber security as covered in this book more relevant than it is today. The recent news of the the Solar Winds hack of US networks for intelligence gathering is just one the latest cyber operation that has been publicized. This book is a chilling account into the world of cybersecurity which spans the years around 2010 when the realm of digital warfare starting rearing its head. It follows the account of the Stuxnet virus, the world’s first affirmed digital weapon designed ...more
Isaac Foster
Jan 26, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A truly excellent and terrifying book on a murky and confusing subject. Indeed, the revelations here are near damning in the same way that Snowden's documents are. The journalism and referencing is very good, maybe even excellent. The explanations of coding and logic were good, but could have been more in depth (but I'm biased...I'm a coder). The reasoning for the 4 star rating is that the overall organization of the book could have used another revision. While I do like the looping almost cycli ...more
Joe Lapp
Jul 24, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: hackers
It was mind-blowing to learn of the malware ecosystems spanning governments and private industry. This book does an excellent job of explaining the discovery and workings of STUXNET and related government digital weapons. It also thoroughly explains the political circumstances and reasons governments give for using the weapons. The author is extremely careful with the nuances of truth and divides the information into chapter content and lengthy footnotes. I struggled to pay attention through the ...more
Frank Cervarich
Jun 25, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Really liked this. Zetter tells the story of Stuxnet as an international who done it, revealing interesting moral questions and problems over the course of the book. At times it is easy to get lost in all the acronyms and technical jargon, but she does a nice job of stringing readers along for a big payoff.
Interesting and well written, although I felt the story could have been told in about half its pages, sometimes it felt very repetitive and went too far away from the actual topic.
I also would have preferred to learn more about the actual code an technical details instead of US American political affairs.
Dec 04, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audio, 2019
I didn't pay close attention to the news when this was actually happening, as I didn't grasp the impacts it truly had or the future impacts possible as a result of this Pandora's Box being opened. Technical at times, which makes it dry at times, but accessible for an educated reader with any background. ...more
Dayton Pruet
Jan 06, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I really enjoyed listening to this book. I cannot fault the narrator for this, but there is one chapter/section where IAEA is said a bunch and it can be annoying. If you want more audio on this topics in this book, check out the podcasts Malicious Life and Darknet Diaries.
Ian Constable
Jul 07, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Cyber warfare is upon us. This book is an interesting and thought provoking account of the birth of digital combat and its potential both good and bad. The Zero Days documentary on YouTube captures the most important points of Countdown to Zero Day for those in a hurry.
Jan 30, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Interesting material, kind of dry writing
Toufic Osseiran
Jul 06, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A compelling book about cyber warfare that reads like a detective horror story and accentuates how vulnerable all the systems that we take for granted are? Yes please!
Apr 21, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A surprisingly accessible and really interesting insight into malware and how computer security issues can be exploited.
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