Joel Brenner’s America the Vulnerable. (36 cents)

By far, the most important book I have recently read is Joel Brenner’s “America the Vulnerable”. Joel, an old friend, has served as the inspector general of the National Security Agency, and as the national counterintelligence director in the office of the director of national intelligence. His book is about our vulnerability to cyberspace attack.

Because Joel tells the story so much better than I can, I will only allude to some of the topics he covers. He talks about not only the vulnerability of our military in this world where so much is controlled electronically, but the vulnerability of our civil society to potential attacks on, say, our electric grid, our health care system, or our transportation infrastructure. He talks not only about outright attacks, but on eavesdropping, and not only on our government networks, but on our private and commercial networks, and on how interconnected they all are. He talks about corporate espionage, and about foreign governments and private organizations allied with foreign governments, stealing our commercial secrets, and our military secrets. About how entire networks cane be taken over, to direct messages where they should not go, and to send out messages and commands which should not be sent out. He talks of our lack of concern about these things. He talks about the shortcomings in our military defense capabilities in this regard, to be sure, but also and equally or more importantly, about our lack of virtually any controls over our non-military government networks. He talks about the lack of coordination between the systems of various federal agencies which should be working together,and about how in most countries industry and government work together for the promotion of commercial activities, something that does nit happen here, so that governments and govermment contractors abroad often spy for the or local industrial establishments. He talks about the lack of verifiability or accountability in electronic transmissions.

All in all, this is a crucial book, designed to make us think. It is also very readable. My guess is that it will have a lot of influence for years to come.


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