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The Hacker and the State: Cyber Attacks and the New Normal of Geopolitics

Ben Buchanan

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Harvard University Press
15 March 2020
Political science & theory; International relations; Espionage & secret services; Geopolitics; Freedom of information & freedom of speech
Few national-security threats are as menacing-or as nebulous-as state-sponsored hacking. Ben Buchanan plunges into the brave new world of cyber attacks and reveals how hackers are transforming spycraft and statecraft, catching us all in the crossfire, whether we know it or not.

Ever since WarGames, we have been bracing for the cyberwar to come. Popular thrillers and political forecasters like to conjure images of exploding power plants, food shortages, and mass panic, but while cyber attacks are now disturbingly common, they don't look anything like we thought they would. They are not exceptional occurrences triggering an immediate crisis; they happen every day and impact our companies, our health systems, and every aspect of our lives.

The Hacker and the State sets aside fantasies of cyber-annihilation to explore the real geopolitical competition of the digital age. Tracing the conflict of wills and interests among modern nations, Ben Buchanan reveals little-known details of how China, Russia, North Korea, Britain, and the United States use computer code to gain an edge, moving deftly from underseas cable taps to underground nuclear sabotage, from blackouts and billion-dollar cyber attacks to election interference.

Buchanan brings to life this continuous cycle of modern espionage and deception, attack and counterattack, destabilization and retaliation. Unlike the long-predicted cyber Pearl Harbors, these attacks are far less destructive, far more pervasive, and much harder to prevent. Quietly, insidiously, they have reshaped our national security priorities and transformed spycraft and statecraft. The contest for geopolitical advantage has moved into cyberspace. The nations that hack best will triumph.
By:   Ben Buchanan
Imprint:   Harvard University Press
Country of Publication:   United States
Dimensions:   Height: 210mm,  Width: 140mm, 
ISBN:   9780674987555
ISBN 10:   0674987551
Pages:   384
Publication Date:   15 March 2020
Audience:   Professional and scholarly ,  Undergraduate
Format:   Hardback
Publisher's Status:   Active

Ben Buchanan teaches at Georgetown University's School of Foreign Service and is a former fellow at Harvard University's Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs. He is the author of The Cybersecurity Dilemma and a regular contributor to the websites Lawfare and War on the Rocks.

Reviews for The Hacker and the State: Cyber Attacks and the New Normal of Geopolitics

This is a must-read book. Factual and perceptive, it reveals important truths about cyberthreats and the role they play in international relations.--Vint Cerf, Internet pioneer This is a great book and the best examination I have read of how increasingly dramatic developments in cyberspace are defining the 'new normal' of geopolitics in the digital age. No book I've read does a better job of describing what has transpired in recent years as state and non-state actors have developed ever more diabolically powerful and clever cyber capabilities. Ben Buchanan makes it clear that the future lies not just in Asia, but also in cyberspace, and he captures the dynamics of all of this truly brilliantly.--General David Petraeus, former Director of the CIA and Commander of Coalition Forces in Iraq and Afghanistan With an academic's eye, Buchanan compares and contrasts the emerging tactics [of digital competition] with the traditional ways of military conflict, nuclear competition, and espionage to make some sense of the new age. The book dissects how governments use cyberattacks to fundamentally 'change the state of play.'-- (01/02/2020) The Hacker and the State fundamentally changes the way we think about cyber operations from 'war' to something of significant import that is not war--what Buchanan refers to as 'real geopolitical competition.' He writes in a highly accessible manner, with in-depth stories that will engage the non-specialist.--Richard Harknett, former Scholar-in-Residence at United States Cyber Command The Hacker and the State is one of the finest books on information security published so far in this century--easily accessible, tightly argued, superbly well-sourced, intimidatingly perceptive.--Thomas Rid, author of Active Measures The Hacker and the State is highly intelligent, important, and timely. Buchanan's chronology of cases, from early espionage to devastating operations like NotPetya, makes for a great read.--Joseph Nye, author of Do Morals Matter? Presidents and Foreign Policy from FDR to Trump More than any other book, The Hacker and the State shows how and why governments hack one another. Having lived and worked in this shadowy world for many years, I came to appreciate its fascinating nuances, fierce competition, and strategic significance. If you read this book, you will, too. Buchanan shares digital spy stories and distills geopolitical insights that you just won't find anywhere else. Remarkably, he has made his detailed insight accessible to a non-technical audience without any loss of fidelity in the underlying narrative.--Former senior intelligence officer, UK government A great read, packed with insider information and great stories. But the book also makes an important argument about how cyberattacks are transforming the geopolitical playing field, changing our defense priorities and forcing us to rewrite our national security policies.--Bruce Schneier, author of Click Here to Kill Everybody: Security and Survival in a Hyper-connected World The Hacker and the State is a great book and the best examination I have read of how increasingly dramatic developments in cyberspace are defining the 'new normal' of geopolitics in the digital age. No book does a better job of describing what has transpired in recent years as state and non-state actors have developed ever-more-diabolically powerful and clever cyber capabilities. Buchanan makes it clear that the future lies not just in Asia, but also in cyberspace, and he captures the dynamics of all of this truly brilliantly.--General David Petraeus, US Army (Ret.), former Director of the CIA and former Commander of Coalition Forces in Iraq and Afghanistan and US Central Command Highly intelligent, important, and timely. Buchanan's chronology of cases, from early espionage to devastating operations like NotPetya, makes for a great read.--Joseph Nye, author of Do Morals Matter? This is a gripping book about today's cyber threat landscape. Through riveting stories of move and counter-move among global adversaries, Buchanan explains why we are in a constant state of cyber conflict--where the stakes couldn't be higher. From China's attacks on our companies to Russia's attacks on our elections, The Hacker and the State is indispensable reading for anyone who cares about our security, our prosperity, and our democracy.--Lisa Monaco, former White House Homeland Security and Counterterrorism Advisor and Deputy National Security Advisor


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