David E. Sanger’s The Perfect Weapon is an encyclopedic account of policy-relevant happenings in the cyberworld. Sanger, a national security correspondent for The New York Times, stays firmly grounded in real events, including communication systems getting hacked and servers being disabled. He avoids the tendency, all too common in futuristic discussions of cyber issues, to spin out elaborate and scary hypothetical scenarios ... He also addresses social media and the problems of misuse that have bedeviled Facebook, including usage by foreign governments for political purposes ... the book’s inclusiveness makes it useful as a one-stop reference for citizens who want to think intelligently about all issues of public policy having a cyber dimension. The combining of that dimension with other security topics, like nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles, is a strength of the book ... The great value of The Perfect Weapon is less in its specific policy prescriptions than in its being the most comprehensive, readable source of information and insight about the policy quandaries that modern information technology and its destructive potential have spawned.
In his new book, The Perfect Weapon, Sanger offers a panoramic view of the rapidly evolving world of cyber-conflict. He covers incidents from the covert U.S. cyber-campaign to sabotage Iran’s nuclear program (a story we know about largely because of Sanger’s diligent reporting) to Edward Snowden’s epic heist of National Security Agency data. And yes, there’s also plenty of background on Russia’s active measures during the 2016 campaign ... But there’s also a wealth of gripping material on stories that have probably been missed by the broader public ... It all adds up to a persuasive argument for the truth of the book’s title ... this is the main message that Sanger is trying to get across with his book: Our country is a big, fat, juicy cyber-target for our enemies. Yet we seem determined to avoid changing our collective ways. When will we finally wake up?
The book’s greatest strength is in how Sanger captures the complexities of cyber weapons and cyber operations to illustrate the internal dynamics of the Obama administration as it grappled with these emerging capabilities ... Where he falls a bit short is on the other side of the equation, where those principles fell somewhat short. Apple for all of its stances on privacy and protecting consumer information bent over backwards to accommodate the Chinese government ... It is well reported, well sourced, and his access provides insights into what many of the key players were thinking at the time and in the years since their tenure ended ... For lay readers, the Perfect Weapon is a great one-volume precis on recent cyber war.