Dark Territory captures the troubling but engrossing narrative of America’s struggle to both exploit the opportunities and defend against the risks of a new era of global cyber-insecurity. Assiduously and industriously reported, Kaplan’s history underscores a double irony in American cyber-strategy...One of the deep insights of Dark Territory is the historical understanding by both theorists and practitioners that cybersecurity is a dynamic game of offense and defense, each function oscillating in perpetual competition.
Mr. Kaplan, a Slate columnist and veteran of The Boston Globe, is deeply sourced. Luckily, he’s not slavishly loyal to his sources: He deals dispassionately with the struggle, before and after Edward Snowden, to balance anti-terror measures and personal privacy. The fun stuff? Details of meetings between top intelligence officials and hackers with nicknames like Mudge and Space Rogue. The dull stuff? Play-by-play accounts of federal task forces.
Though Dark Territory is presented as a “secret history,” it is really a collection of the not-so-secret, often less-than-exciting accounts of mid- and executive-level insiders, mostly at the National Security Agency, who debated and formulated cybersecurity policy. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. But it means Kaplan’s narrative by story is far from complete, and too often not memorable. Dark Territory is a book more about the briefings, commission reports and meetings of study groups than it is about actual operations...That is to say, Dark Territory packs in a great deal of material, yet also not enough. It is a readable and informative history of policy formulation. But the overall darkness from which the book takes its title remains to be lifted.