Book Review: Cyber Wars

Posted by   Martijn Grooten on   Dec 19, 2018

At a recent security conference, one speaker asked how many of the audience remembered the 2007 Storm Worm. Only about half the members of the audience of malware researchers raised their hand.

Infosec isn't very good at institutional memory and the vast amount of new information that deluges those working in the industry often doesn't give one the time to sit back and try and understand the past. But it would be good if we occasionally did.

charlesarthur_cyberwars_book.jpg

In Cyber Wars, former Guardian technology editor Charles Arthur writes about seven prominent hacks and attacks, including the hacks at HB Gary and Sony Pictures, and the Mirai botnet. None of these cases would be important enough for a book on their own, but they should not be forgotten.

Indeed, Arthur concludes every chapter with lessons that can be learned from the particular case. Even more important than learning those specific lessons would be to add the stories to our collective memory, including important parts of stories that are often overlooked.

For example, it was well known that John Podesta didn't use two-factor authentication on his Gmail account when it was hacked during his work for the 2016 Clinton campaign. I also knew that the phishing page was only fallen for after a helpdesk staffer had meant to say 'this is not a legitimate email' but accidentally left out the 'not'. But what I didn't know was that it was actually an assistant of Podesta's who fell for it: the mailbox was shared among several staffers, which would have made using 2FA less trivial.

The chapter on the 2014 Sony Pictures hack, the only other chapter that fits the book's somewhat unfortunate title (the subtitle, 'Hacks that shocked the business world', is far more appropriate), serves as a good reminder that initially very few security professionals believed the US government when it attributed this hack to North Korea. Now, everyone considers that country a serious player in the world of cyber attacks: it is good to be reminded of the paradigm shift that has taken place.

The book concludes with a somewhat pessimistic chapter on the future of hacking. Here I disagree with Arthur: while we will never be able to write 100% secure code or unhackable systems, as our understanding of hacks and attacks grows we will learn to better anticipate them, and that could make a big difference. Books like this really help with this understanding.

Cyber Wars is published by KoganPage.

twitter.png
fb.png
linkedin.png
hackernews.png
reddit.png

 

Latest posts:

VB2019 paper: APT cases exploiting vulnerabilities in region-specific software

At VB2019, JPCERT/CC's Shusei Tomonaga and Tomoaki Tani presented a paper on attacks that exploit vulnerabilities in software used only in Japan, using malware that is unique to Japan. Today we publish both their paper and the recording of their…

New paper: Detection of vulnerabilities in web applications by validating parameter integrity and data flow graphs

In a follow-up to a paper presented at VB2019, Prismo Systems researchers Abhishek Singh and Ramesh Mani detail algorithms that can be used to detect SQL injection in stored procedures, persistent cross-site scripting (XSS), and server‑side request…

VB2020 programme announced

VB is pleased to reveal the details of an interesting and diverse programme for VB2020, the 30th Virus Bulletin International Conference.

VB2019 paper: Cyber espionage in the Middle East: unravelling OSX.WindTail

At VB2019 in London, Jamf's Patrick Wardle analysed the WindTail macOS malware used by the WindShift APT group, active in the Middle East. Today we publish both Patrick's paper and the recording of his presentation.

VB2019 paper: 2,000 reactions to a malware attack – accidental study

At VB2019 cybercrime journalist and researcher Adam Haertlé presented an analysis of almost 2000 unsolicited responses sent by victims of a malicious email campaign. Today we publish both his paper and the recording of his presentation.

We have placed cookies on your device in order to improve the functionality of this site, as outlined in our cookies policy. However, you may delete and block all cookies from this site and your use of the site will be unaffected. By continuing to browse this site, you are agreeing to Virus Bulletin's use of data as outlined in our privacy policy.