“The Hacker and the State: Cyber Attacks and the New Normal of Geopolitics”
By Ben Buchanan
Published by Harvard University Press, February 25, 2020
Few national-security threats are as potent—or as nebulous—as cyber attacks. Ben Buchanan 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, 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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About the Author:
Ben Buchanan teaches at Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service, where he is a Senior Faculty Fellow at the Center for Security and Emerging Technology. He is the author of The Cybersecurity Dilemma and a regular contributor to the websites Lawfare and War on the Rocks. He was previously a fellow at Harvard University’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs.
- At Wired, read “How North Korean Hackers Rob Banks around the World,” excerpted from The Hacker and the State
- At the Washington Post, read Ben Buchanan’s debunking of common myths about cyberwar
- At The Diplomat, read an interview with Buchanan on “the new normal of geopolitics”
- On ABC Radio National’s Late Night Live, listen to Buchanan explain what can we learn from the past to help predict future cyber-attacks—particularly ones designed to disrupt the 2020 elections
- Read a Washington Examiner feature, including comment by Buchanan, on the possibility of hacking influencing the outcome of 2020 U.S. elections
- On the CBS News podcast Intelligence Matters, listen to Buchanan unpack the potential effect AI technologies may have on the geopolitical dynamics among nations
- On Lawfare’s The Cyberlaw Podcast, listen to Buchanan discuss the state of legal regulation surrounding international conflict using artificial intelligence (bots) and other cyber weapons
- At Protocol, read an excerpt from The Hacker and the State, “How the NSA Hacked International Mobile Carriers”
- At OneZero, read an excerpt from The Hacker and the State on how “hacking is the new Cold War”
- On Marketplace (American Public Media), listen to Buchanan discuss the Equifax data breach—recently tied by the U.S. Department of Justice to four members of the Chinese military
- At Lawfare, read Buchanan’s advice to scholars on how to approach cybersecurity issues
- Watch Buchanan present The Hacker and the State at the Wilson Center in Washington, DC
- “A National Security Research Agenda for Cybersecurity and Artificial Intelligence” (PDF) – Center for Security and Emerging Technology at Georgetown University, by Ben Buchanan