REVIEW: OFFENSIVE CYBER OPERATIONS by Daniel Moore

Published by Hurst Publications, ISBN 978-1-78738-561-0, £35 hardback

It is not often that I get really fascinating books like this to review, and I am very grateful to Hurst Publications for this copy. 

I have a vested interest in all forms of warfare, from the use of rifles and cannon, all the way up to electronic and cyber warfare. It is a fascinating subject, and clearly now, with the appalling humanitarian disaster wrought by the Russian invasion of Ukraine, a matter of interest to all the world. 

One point that has not been taken up, as far as I can see, by the media generally, is the idea of cyber warfare. Yes, there were attacks – both on Ukraine and their government early in the war, but also on Lithuania in June this year – and yet although some news services speculated that this could lead to NATO joining the war, because this was an attack on a NATO state, nothing was seen to happen afterwards. Perhaps partly because it was a deniable attack by a separate Russian-supporting group, Killnet, rather than the Russian state itself – rather as it’s been said that Wagner troops are not directly responsible to the Russian government.

And that, at first, was what grabbed me about this book. It was in the subtitle: Understanding Intangible Warfare – before you can look at and consider cyber operations, you need to define exactly what you mean, because so much of the efforts that go into the realm of digital warfare are precisely that: intangible.

The first chapter takes the reader through what cyber-warfare involves, and explains the main principles. The writer discusses the difference between cyber-warfare and cyberwar – there are aspects of warfare that can be fought in the cyber world, but an actual cyberwar? Not very likely, as he explains.

From there, he goes on to talk about intangible warfare – how can it be defined, how can it be evaluated in terms of risk and opportunity? – before looking at networks and how to target them, and what cyber strategies should be used. After that he goes into aspects of American cyber projects (mainly because, as he points out, many of them are in the public domain now, thanks to the Snowdon leaks), then Russian, Chinese and Iranian efforts. Finally he looks at cyber more generally before reaching a series of conclusions. 

I did not expect to find this as fascinating a read as it turned out to be. There is a lot of information in this book. Cyber security and offensive cyber operations are mostly, for a layman like me, not immediately comprehensible – and here I speak from experience, having looked at many research books in my time – but Moore writes with a clarity and simplicity that is engaging and compelling. It is clear that he really understands his subject and he has the fortunate gift of being able to communicate it in straightforward language. 

For my purposes, a book like this is a godsend. I am reviewing various themes for my next modern day thriller, and this book has provided several plot directions. I have no idea whether any one of them will actually be used in my next book, but it’s quite likely that one of them will. 

In the meantime, this is a timely investigation of the current status of cyber operations. Not only because it goes through the history of such attacks – and demonstrates with a historian’s eye for detail how cyber operations developed from signals intelligence and electronic warfare to the present, and explains cyber operations today based on government reports, case studies and explains military strategy. In the final chapter he gives his view on how they will develop in the future. 

It explains why the attack against Lithuania did not reach the level of aggression necessary to trigger a NATO response. It explains the success of various attacks, from Stuxnet onwards, and looks at the future of such operations. In particular it explains more generally that cyber-warfare is only an additional means of warfare. It is not a fighting system in its own right, only a separate arm that can be used, much as ground troops, or ships or air forces can be used in an overall battle strategy.

Just now, as I said, it seems particularly well-timed. 

A fascinating read, full of detail that is communicated effectively for non-cyber professionals as well as those involved in cyber operations. Highly recommended for those with an interest in warfare generally or specifically in cyber-warfare. Basically, it’s a must buy for anyone with an interest in cyber-warfare and in understanding how the major attacks have been conducted, as well as how the responses have been calibrated.

Highly recommended.

Comments
One Response to “REVIEW: OFFENSIVE CYBER OPERATIONS by Daniel Moore”
  1. Jack Eason says:

    Not my cup of tea, but I wish it success.

    Like

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