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Dark Territory: The Secret History of Cyber War

3.90  ·  Rating details ·  2,688 ratings  ·  309 reviews
The never-before-told story of the computer scientists and the NSA, Pentagon, and White House policymakers who invented and employ the wars of the present and future - the cyber wars where every country can be a major power player and every hacker a mass destroyer, as reported by a Pulitzer Prize-winning security and defense journalist.

In June 1983, President Reagan watche
Hardcover, 339 pages
Published March 1st 2016 by Simon Schuster
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John Lamb
Mar 27, 2016 rated it really liked it
I continue my quest to be the most informed snob at any dinner party so I can maintain my delicate card tower of affected pretentiousness by finishing this book about America's secret war of cyber attacks. I will let you know know the most interesting bits in person. ...more
Aug 08, 2017 rated it liked it
49th book for 2017.

An interesting history of cyberwarfare over the last 50 years, almost exclusively told from an American perspective.

The big take home messages for me were: how vulnerable societies (and interestingly in particular the US) are from crippling attacks (from power stations to hospitals to voting systems); how concerted, long-term lobbying pressure from Silicon Valley has left huge gaps in security, which is almost a design feature as costs of attacks are externalized on society a
Barbara (The Bibliophage)
This is compelling book about a worldwide issue that's underreported, under addressed, and honestly terrifying. Governments have been hacking into their rivals' computers for decades but it's taken nearly as long for cyber attacks to be considered a genuine threat.

This also could have a real snoozer of a book, given the complexity of the topic. But Kaplan and the audiobook narrator (Malcolm Hillgartner) make it easier to understand than I expected. That said, I could probably gain even more ins
Mal Warwick
May 17, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
Occasionally, I come across a book on an important topic that’s crammed with information I was able to find nowhere else — but is a chore to read. Even though it is not an academic study but clearly intended for a general audience, Fred Kaplan’s recent history of cyber war, Dark Territory, is one such book.

A story stretching over five decades

Unlike previous treatments that I’ve read about the topic, which zero in on the vulnerability of the American economy to attacks through cyberspace, Dark Te
Dec 12, 2016 rated it it was ok
A better title would have been "Dark Territory: A History of American Cyber Security Bureaucracy."

This book contains a wealth of information and a number of interesting stories and insights. Unfortunately, it is a laborious and nod-off inducing read, by a well informed author with no clue how to build a compelling narrative or meaningful critical perspective. It also places far too much emphasis on the bureaucracies of the American defense complex and not enough emphasis on the larger scope of t
May 27, 2016 rated it it was ok
Interesting, but not well written.
Jan 06, 2017 marked it as wish-list

Description: In June 1983, President Reagan watched the movie War Games, in which a kid unwittingly hacks the Pentagon, and asked his top general if the scenario was plausible. The general said it was. This set in motion the first presidential directive on computer security.

The first use of cyber techniques in battle occurred in George H.W. Bush's Kuwait invasion in 1991 to disable Saddam's military communications. One year later, the NSA Director watched Sneakers, in which one of the characters
Jun 25, 2017 rated it liked it
Summary: Dark Territory covers the history of US cyber security in fairly broad strokes. These are some of the major events that it discusses:

NSDD-145: After seeing the movie "Wargames" and learning that the state of US cyber security was actually WORSE than it was portrayed in the movie, President Reagan signed this directive that provided initial objectives, policies, and an organizational structure to guide the conduct of federal activities toward "safeguarding systems which process or commun
Jun 01, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I'll give it a four because of the info. But that same info was was repetitive as if the chapters were independent and not a lot of care given to making this a cohesive read. Redundancies stop me short and have me wondering if I am on the right trail.
If your reading this then you sure listen to his info.
Apr 20, 2019 rated it did not like it
Quite disappointed.

This is a book about US policies, policies makers and bureaucracy associated with cyber security. Not really about anything else. I was hoping to get some insight on specific measures which were undertaken in specific scenarios of cyber threats, so clearly there was a dissonance between my expectations and what was presented.

Aside from that, I think the narrative was poor, disorganized and noncoherent. There was "no flow". Author didn't engage me with his story and I felt like
Jul 08, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Good recounting of the development of the perception of cyber treats from the Reagan to the Obama presidency and how the executive branch reacted to the rapid change of information warfare. Still, the writing (or the narration) left me very disengaged.
David Sasaki
Oct 03, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: paperback
My instinct is to ignore the warnings of lawyers, security experts, and anyone else whose income is based on their capacity to invoke fear. With hindsight, it's an instinct that has served me well; the long arc of history is usually on the side of the optimists. But it is also my blindspot. Rarely to I seek out information about the risks and dangers we face.

Fortunately, my colleague Eli Sugarman suggested that we read Fred Kaplan's Dark Territory: The Secret History of Cyber War as the first i
John de' Medici
Mar 22, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Found this to be an highly engrossing read, especially because I have for a time been keen on the topic of "cyber warfare"...
I especially loved this book's approach - a behind the scenes look into the History of Cyber War in relation to the US. The NSA of course taking the major spotlight.

Any good book I think should be able to make you reconsider one or more viewpoints that you hold...
This too was no exception. I find myself reconsidering my attitude towards the NSA, much of it formed during th
Apr 26, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This is an excellent book, a very readable, veritable page-turner that details in clear, understandable terms, the technology, bureaucratic in-fighting, and events that have led us to where we are today, on the cusp of a revolution in surveillance, intelligence, and warfare.

It's almost a truism that generals fight the last war instead of the present one. That is certainly obvious from reading Kaplan's very disturbing history of cyber vulnerabilities in the United States. In spite of the efforts
Ross Siegel
Jun 28, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Fascinating and scary read about the state Of modern warfare

Kaplan does a spectacular job about laying out the facts of the history of American warfare and the people and events that drove policy or lack thereof.
The world is scarier now which is why it's more important that everyone with an eye to government over reach, foreign policy, freedom of information and privacy read this book.
I do wish, however that Kaplan had spent more time discussing what America does in a modern offensive stance rat
Daniel Frank
Feb 16, 2018 rated it it was ok
If anybody knows of a great book about cyber warfare, please let me know, because this is definitely not it.
Fearless Leader
A pretty standard narrative style history of the public cyber security efforts of the United States up to the point of the books publication. There really isn’t any useful information in this book, although you do come away with the impression that the US government, and especially the security agencies, are inept and stuck in their ways.
Jun 16, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science, spy, non-fiction
This book reminds me of Tom Clancy's novels; tons of federal agency -names, job titles, acronyms- who all appear to be doing things that sound the same. It can get very confusing. I didn't keep track but would say roughly 2 dozen folks (or less) that float in and out of the same federal and commercial job posts; a very small world where everyone seems to know each other.

The jumping back and forth in time was a bit confusing but it would have to be done to cover all the events and career paths ru
Strong Extraordinary Dreams
Hey, only two problems

1. It's childish and one-sided propaganda:
- "America didn't steal other countries industrial secrets - it didn't need to".
- called the Federal Reserve a "federal body"
- Snowden leaked the NSA's **metadata** program
- "Russian scientists had attended conferences on every subject that interested the hacker"
- the obviously false story of 911 happening 'cos info wasn't collated

2. It's written in a silly breathless style:
- "Just elever months before the report came out..."
- "Whi
Terry Fernandes
Kaplan provides an excellent account of how cyber tactics, cyber security, and cyber warfare evolved in the United States. It was not a smooth evolution, encountering, as it did, speed bumps of complacency, disinterest, and skepticism. We arrived later to the party than we should have. Kaplan's level of detail and insight is at times surprising, and the reader might wonder at his access to what seem like highly sensitive, and very likely classified, information. All thinking people should read t ...more
Oct 21, 2018 rated it liked it
Good easy to read summary of the history of cyber warfare, defense, hacking and governmental red tape and ignorance. I might have given it an extra star if it contained more about other countries and didn’t concentrate so much on the US. Also I can’t put my finger on it but something strikes me wary when it comes to the book’s politics. It’s definitely trusting of US intentions and rarely seems to question the potential for misuse of these seductive powers of omniscience.
May 22, 2016 rated it it was ok
Slim contents - I did not learn very much new from this book as I follow cyber security in the popular media. It was nice to see it all laid out chronologically. I am sure there is much more to the stories that we will never know.
Andrew Obrigewitsch
Jul 12, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: computer, history
An excellent history of cyber warfare. One can see how this could easily escalate out of control, and is the weapon of the future which most companies aren't even thinking about defending against. Which puts them at grave risk. ...more
Nov 14, 2019 rated it liked it
Without going totally Kaczynski, maybe we shouldn't be connected to the Internet of Things all the time... ...more
John Carey
Sep 18, 2019 rated it liked it
Great overview. Lays out the important points of debate with historical context, then tries to give the strongest argument to each side.

-There's a balance between cyber offense and defense. The more holes America can exploit against others, means more holes for us to be attacked. Since America is the most "integrated" country into the internet of things, we're arguably the most vulnerable. This makes retaliation trickier than in the nuclear side of things.
-After then Snowden revelation
Karel Baloun
Feb 20, 2018 rated it it was amazing
We are at a dramatic crux in military strategy, where cyber warfare is becoming perhaps the most active battle ground. China is actively penetrating systems, and Russia is leading in information warfare. The first chapters feel historical, even when relating events from just 10-20 years ago, yet the conclusion couldn’t possibly be more timely or more imminently impactful. Well researched and carefully written. Powerful.

This book inspired me to go study for a masters in cybersecurity.

Valuable per
Jonathan Mcwalter
Jul 30, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I’ll start with a line from the book, “...when Admiral Rogers testified (March 2014) that he wanted to ‘increase our capacity on the offensive side,’ few, if any, of the senators had the slightest idea what he was talking about..”

Very fascinating and informative book on the history of the United States’ entry into and involvement in cyber warfare. Some things are incredible, almost straight out of a Hollywood script and I think that’s one of the more intriguing aspects of this book. There are a
Stuart Berman
Dec 17, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history, technology
It reads like a suspense novel but presents the little known history of nation-state hacking since computer networks came into existence after World War II through the 2016 elections.

Was the movie War Games based on reality?

When did we first detect Russia and Chinese infiltrations into US Department of Defense networks?

When did Iranians infiltrate Aramco and Las Vegas Sands organizations and for what purpose?

Every computer security professional needs to read this book and anyone who reads it an
Dee Miller
Oct 13, 2022 rated it really liked it
Shelves: october-2022 9 hours Narrated by Malcolm Hillgartner (A+)

Cyber security. This is a subject unfamiliar to me more than trying to remember my user name and passwords on a couple of sites. However the author covers this subject from the perspective of security from the period from Reagan's to Obama' presidencies. This is a good introductory history of the use of computers and the Internet. There are ever increasing challenges to keep information and technology secure not only in the government but a
Jan 16, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An adequate overview of cybersecurity policy in the US over the past 50 years. Nothing really new, although a good presentation of some of the administrative/political/bureaucratic parts in the 90s/00s around NSA and turf wars against other agencies/involvement in Iraq/Afghanistan/GWOT. I'd probably recommend primary sources (books by Hayden, Alexander, etc.) instead. Kaplan also doesn't really seem to understand the technology very well, so we just get the standard repeated phrases about variou ...more
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