Cover: The Hacker and the State: Cyber Attacks and the New Normal of Geopolitics, from Harvard University PressCover: The Hacker and the State in HARDCOVER

The Hacker and the State

Cyber Attacks and the New Normal of Geopolitics

On WBUR (Boston, MA)’s Here and Now, listen to Ben Buchanan explain the SolarWinds cyberattack—how it began, how it spread, and the implications of its “remarkable” scale and reach:

“A must-read…It reveals important truths.”—Vint Cerf, Internet pioneer

“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

“A helpful reminder…of the sheer diligence and seriousness of purpose exhibited by the Russians in their mission.”—Jonathan Freedland, New York Review of Books

“The best examination I have read of how increasingly dramatic developments in cyberspace are defining the ‘new normal’ of geopolitics in the digital age.”—General David Petraeus, former Director of the CIA

“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.’”—Richard Harknett, former Scholar-in-Residence at United States Cyber Command

Ever since WarGames, we have been bracing for the cyberwar to come, conjuring images of exploding power plants and mass panic. But while cyber attacks are now disturbingly common, they don’t look anything like we thought they would.

Packed with insider information based on interviews, declassified files, and forensic analysis of company reports, 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 hack one another in a relentless struggle for dominance. His analysis moves deftly from underseas cable taps to underground nuclear sabotage, from blackouts and data breaches to billion-dollar heists and election interference.

Buchanan brings to life this continuous cycle of espionage and deception, attack and counterattack, destabilization and retaliation. He explains why cyber attacks are far less destructive than we anticipated, far more pervasive, and much harder to prevent. With little fanfare and far less scrutiny, they impact our banks, our tech and health systems, our democracy, and every aspect of our lives. Quietly, insidiously, they have reshaped our national-security priorities and transformed spycraft and statecraft. The contest for geopolitical advantage has moved into cyberspace. The United States and its allies can no longer dominate the way they once did. The nation that hacks best will triumph.

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