Threat Mitigation In Cyberspace

Richard A. Clarke and Robert K. Knake provide a detailed rundown of the evolution and legislative history of cyberspace. The two leading cybersecurity experts encourage innovative cyber policy solutions to mitigate cyberwar, protect our critical infrastructure and help citizens to prevent cybercrime.

The Fifth Domain, commonly referred to as cyberspace, poses new challenges for governments, companies and citizens. Clarke and Knake discuss the historic milestones that led to modern cybersecurity and cyber policy. With detailed accounts of how governments implement security layers in cyberspace, gripping examples of breaches of cybersecurity and innovative solutions for policymakers, this book ended up rather dense in content – a positive signal for someone interested in cybersecurity, but fairly heavy for everybody else. Some of the content widely circulated the news media, other content is intriguing and through-provoking. While the policy solutions in this book aren’t ground-breaking, the authors provide fuel for policymakers and the public to take action on securing data, but, perhaps more importantly, to start developing transparent, effective cyber policies that account for the new, emerging technologies within machine learning and quantum computing. Personally, I found the hardcover edition too clunky and expensive. Six parts over 298 pages, however, made reading this book a breeze.

A History Of Disinformation And Political Warfare

After political powerhouse Hillary Clinton lost in a spectacular fashion against underdog Donald J. Trump in the 2016 U.S. presidential elections, the world was flabbergasted to learn of foreign election interference orchestrated by the Russian Internet Research Agency. Its mission: to secretly divide the electorate and skew votes away from Clinton and towards Trump. In order to understand the present, one must know the past. This is the baseline of ‘Active Measures – The Secret History of Disinformation and Political Warfare’ by Johns Hopkins Professor of Strategic Studies Thomas Rid. 

I bought this book to study the methodology, strategy and tactics of disinformation and political warfare. To my surprise, the book only spends 11 pages on disinformation. The remaining 424 pages introduce historic examples of influence operations with the bulk of it dedicated to episodes of the cold war. Rid offers insights into the American approach to defend against a communist narrative in a politically divided Germany. He details Soviet influence operations to time-and-again smear American democracy and capitalism. The detail spent on the German Ministry of State Security known as “Stasi” is interesting and overwhelming. 

While my personal expectation wasn’t met with this book, I learned about retracing historic events to attribute world events to specific nations. Its readability is designed for a mass audience fraught with thrilling stories. What is the role of journalistic publications in political warfare? Did Germany politically regress under American and Soviet active measures? Was the constructive vote of no confidence on German chancellor Willy Brandt a product of active measures? Who did really spread the information the AIDS virus was a failed American experiment? On the downside, this book doesn’t really offer any new details into the specifics of disinformation operations. Most contemporary espionage accounts have already been recorded. Defectors told their stories. This makes these stories sometimes bloated and redundant. Nevertheless, I believe to understand our current affairs, we must connect the dots through the lens of political history. Rid presents the foundations for future research into influence operations.