Book review – “Inside Cyber Warfare: Mapping the Cyber Underworld”

Recent events involving attacks on Google and other companies and the reconnaissance and espionage incidents against Tibetan and Indian officials have sparked widespread interest in the grey area of cyber warfare. Jeffrey Carr’s “Inside Cyber Warfare” comes as a welcome piece of work that thrown light on this serious area of 21st century means of warfare.

What sets Carr’s work apart is that instead of looking at the subject area from a purely technical perspective, Carr, and contributing authors, cover the issues associated with cyber war at a bigger-picture plane, considering issues like international law, involvement of organised crime, state machinery etc.

Chapter one provides an introduction to the problem of warfare in the cyberspace by referencing recent incidents involving non-state hackers from China, Russia, Israel, Iran and others. It also provides an introduction to the protection of a nation’s critical infrastructure and how it is connected to cyber warfare. Most high profile cyber attacks that have been identified so far have been attributed to individuals/groups (“non-state”) rather than specific state agencies or machineries. Chapter two looks at some of these well know hackers and follows up with discussion on whether these non-state actors are protected assets within a nation’s legal system.

Chapter three discusses the legal status of cyber warfare and the existing thoughts on how cyber warfare can be governed by the existing laws of armed conflict. While this chapter only introduces the problem of how to classify cyber war and which existing international treaties can be applied to such acts, the next chapter, written by Lt. Cdr. Matt Sklerov goes into in-depth detail of the various issues associated with this matter. Laying specific emphasis on the use of active defense to thwart cyber attacks, Sklerov analyses cyber warfare from the two principals areas of laws of war – jus ad bellum (justice to war) and jus in bello (justice in war). This is one of the strongest chapters of the book and its strength lies in the strong analysis of cyber war scenarios based on existing laws. It tackles the contentious issue of non-state actors and the need to impute state responsibility for act of non-state actors.

Chapter five discusses the investigation and analysis performed by Project Grey Goose, of which the author is a part, on two cyber attacks – the attacks against US and South Koeran government website in 2009 and that of LiveJournal and Twitter DDos attacks in August 2009. It also aims to propose a new approach to conducting cyber intelligence, taking into account unique issues associated with cyberspace and cyber warfare. Chapter six looks at the use of social web tools like Twitter, Facebook, MySpace etc. by hackers to collect personal information about potential attacks targets and how these are then used to mount targeted attacks. Chapter seven explains how the process of following the money trail created by arranging the logistics of launching an attacks can be used to track the culprits while chapter eight discusses the involvement of organised crime in the cyber warfare scene, with emphasis being on Russian organised crime.

Chapter nine takes a quick look at some basic network forensics tools available for investigators. Chapter ten looks at the malware scene and its close connection to cyber warfare and the use of social engineering and social web for targeted use of these malwares. Chapter eleven takes a brief look at the approach taken by Russia, China and USA in using cyber warfare in their military doctrine. A more thorough analysis of this subject would have added a lot of value to the book, but unfortunately that has not been attempted. Chapter twelve by Ned Moran proposes an early warning model for cyber attacks based on analysis of politically motivated cyber attacks with the aim of allowing defenders to predict than react to occurrences of these attacks. The last chapter of the book, contributed by three individuals with cyber warfare experience along with Jeffrey Carr aims to provide advice to policy makers to guide them in their effort to make proper policies towards protecting national cyberspace.

Carr’s work covers the very important field of cyber warfare which is becoming very relevant based on recent events involving intellectual property thefts, espionage etc. The work covers important ground by concentrating on issues like international law regarding cyber warfare, the legality of active defense and need for properly thought out policy framework for protecting the cyberspace. However, the book is not without issues. While it covers good ground, it falls short of a scholarly work, mainly due to the non-uniform depth of analysis of the various issues.

In short, a well written book that should be read by anyone interested in the deeper issues associated with cyber warfare, but not without some failings.

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One Response to Book review – “Inside Cyber Warfare: Mapping the Cyber Underworld”

  1. Cheri May 17, 2010 at 9:08 am #

    Just went out and bought the book based on this review…hope it’s money well spent:-0

    [Reply]

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