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Book Review: Cybersecurity and Cyberwar - What Everyone Needs To Know (Singer/Friedman)

Cybersecurity and Cyberwar – What Everyone Needs To Know

Peter W. Singer and Allan Friedman

Oxford University Press, USA (January 3, 2014), 320 pages <ISBN-13: 978-0199918119>

“Cyber War” is a topic of tremendous interest in current thinking on conflict. Scores 51RYtiqxonL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_of books are in print that opine on the nature of “war” in the cyberspace domain.  Many of these are verbose, or dryly make attempts at erudition without conveying much that is useful.

That is why this soon to be published offering by Peter Singer and Allan Friedman, “Cybersecurity and Cyberwar – What Everyone Needs to Know” is such a refreshing discovery.  The pair present a compelling reference for use by a broad audience.  The wisdom of the authors comes through in part from the book’s layout.  It presents topics under three general categories:  “How It All Works”; “Why It Matters”; and “What Can We Do”.  From these three categories a number of short, compelling and readable essays issue forth.  Series of questions that many ask are presented, with answers that inform without overwhelming. 

For example, in the “how it works” section, the reader is presented with a short “history of the internet”, how “governance” works, and continues into topics  on security, threats, vulnerabilities, etc. (The article entitled “One Phish, Two Phish, Red Phish, Cyber Phish” is a great example of the mix of levity and serious discussion.)  The subsequent sections lay out the main title topics for dissection and discovery.   The articles vary from two to five pages and are “stand alone” topics.  Each one can be lifted out and studied without necessarily needing the book for “context”.  The end notes are numbered sequentially for easy reference/referral.  There is a useful glossary as well, particularly valuable if the reader skips around on this book.

This gets to what makes “Cyberwar and Cybersecurity” a compelling reference.  The reader can pick any part of this book and quickly come away with useful information.  This makes it an excellent text book for classes focused on cybersecurity, or for consideration of cyberspace capabilities within the larger context of war, strategy, or national security.  An instructor or facilitator can lift out a topic and begin useful discussions.

This book is highly recommended, whether as a read-through text, or to those who want a handy ready-reference on the broad topics of cyberwar and cyber security.  It should be the first book to read if one is just entering into this fray and wants to be acquainted with the major issues, terms of reference, and areas of dispute and conflict.  It is my hope that this book becomes a regularly updated reference (similar to “In Search of Excellence” for business types).  

It is available on,
among other places

For those in the National Capital Region on January 6th, 2014,  Brookings Institution will be hosting a panel discussion with the authors, moderated by Noah Schactman. For more information, link here.