Book Review: Cyber Storm

“Cyber Storm” was written by Matthew Mather and published in 2013.

This is a bit of an in progress review, as I haven’t finished with the book yet. I’m about halfway through and I’m a bit “meh” about it. I picked it up because it seemed to intersect my professional and private life interests.

Writing, passable. The characters are stock, the writing is a bit “blocky” and the dialogue between characters is much more “scripted” than real. But, this isn’t a book you read for pleasure, even though it is fiction, it is a book written to explain the dangers of reliance on the internet for modern life. I don’t really have too much to add to this review:

The scenario, realistic. Even though the book is almost 4 years past state of the art, the dangers described are still very real. However they aren’t the only dangers associated with reliance on an unhardened infrastructure (anyone else remember the sub station in California that was shot up by a rifle? Imagine that played out on a national scale). Even if we eventually get “cyber” hardened enough to run infrastructure we still have other vulnerabilities in the system. The “high concept, low tech” attack of 9/11 has proven that you don’t need a cyber war to bring a country to an effective standstill.

Should you read it? Well, if you have people who aren’t preppers in your life who might need a wakeup call as to what the world might look like under a massive cyber war, then you should definitely get it for them. If you want to read about how city dwelling New Yorkers descend into animals clawing for survival, then this is probably right up your alley. However it isn’t much of a preppers manual as disaster porn, complete with looters and criminals.

Honestly I think “Little Brother” by Corey Doctorow was a better read, as it was an instruction manual disguised as young adult fiction.  Both “Cyber Storm” and “Little Brother” have had their movie rights purchased and may make the transition to the big (or little) screen.

There is one part of Cyber Storm that really does resonate with me though, and that is the policy questions of “where does Government authority begin to require private entities to provide services in the name of national security?” and since 2013 there hasn’t been a good answer from the Obama administration. I’ve always thought that any work the FedGov would require a private corporation to do should come with a 100% tax write off (maybe even 110%) in order to incentivize compliance and cooperation.

On a different tangent, in the last three years I’ve come to the conclusion that of all the mainstream operating systems; Windows, OSX, and Linux, windows is probably the safest bet for the most people. In the last few years Microsoft has invested heavily into OS hardening. Microsofts OS hardening is sometimes not user friendly, like your computer randomly restarting to install a critical patch when you are working on an important document, but in the corporate world the IT department controls that update schedule. Apple’s OSX is mostly a glossed over version of BSD which gets more gloss (and less Unix goodness) every release.

Linux is the least secure of all OS’s simply because the open and collaborative nature of the projects is based on trust that everyone is working on the projects best interest (which given the suspected NSA weakening of encryption and the JunOS vulnerabilities isn’t a valid assumption). However, that doesn’t mean that Linux isn’t useful, and shouldn’t be a part of your skill set. Being able to run TAILS or boot your computer off of a thumb drive is pretty damn important in a world where that may be the only way to get something up and running in a quick and dirty fashion.

So…probably not a worthwhile read to anyone who is serious about prepping unless they are not familiar with the concepts of cyber warfare and how it would likely play out against a civilian population.

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