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Sunday, November 8, 2015

Ominous Truth in 'Countdown to Zero Day' - Book Review

Review of the Book Countdown to Zero Day by Kim Zetter

I found Kim Zetter’s ‘Countdown to Zero Day’ to be an extraordinarily challenging read because of the implications in what is written.  Zetter is an outstanding writer who keeps the reader in suspense in her telling of all that happened in the series of Stuxnet cyber-attacks.
The most chilling observation comes in the way she talks about ‘firsts.’  The same country that launched the world into the age of atomic weapons is the one who launched the world into the age of cyber warfare.  And it was done as an attempt to cutoff future nuclear conflicts.  The irony would be worthy of an eye-roll if the implications weren’t so ominous.
As wonderful as Zetter’s writing was, I did at points find myself bogged down in the technical details of computer code and computer viruses.  In the acknowledgements at the end of the book, she notes the difficulty of composing a compelling tale and at the same time being true to the necessity of comprehensive technical description.  I appreciated her transparency in the challenge of accomplishing both (a well-written story and one that would satisfy people who know about code, which I do not).  I think she accomplished the goal.  It was easy for me to skim the portions that were beyond my capacity regarding technical description.  It did not detract from me getting into the narrative she shared.
The bottom line is this book makes me feel a bit less secure about the future of international conflict.  This book is another in the line of works that show how the computer age is a dangerous equalizer.  For me the first such book was Friedman’s ‘The World is Flat.’  Zetter’s work shows the next logical step in the flattening of the world.
I hope someone overly talented programmer with serious emotional imbalance in his life doesn’t launch a virus or other type of attack that destroys crucial systems nationwide.  I hope that type of catastrophe doesn’t happen.  After reading ‘Countdown to Zero Day,’ I kind of think it will.  And that is scary.

Disclaimer - I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review.

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