@War – The Rise of the Military-Internet Complex by Shane Harris is a non-fiction book about cyber-security, cyber-warfare, and surveillance. I finished reading the book coincidentally at the same time some surveillance powers of the Patriot Act expired.
From history classes, I was always interested in the military-industrial complex – the combined efforts of corporate America with military contracts. @War draws the same parallel with cyber-warfare, drawing in new companies to be involved in the battle. These non-traditional military companies could be innovative information technology companies like Google or big targets like banks and even retailers. Of course, more traditional military partner companies like Lockheed Martin have become involved as well.
The book provides great detail through a timeline of events to show the evolution of the military-internet complex since September 11th, 2001. Through particular individuals, the NSA positioned itself to lead the charge for the government’s cyber-security. The book changes tones from criticizing the government efforts to believing the government as a leader. For example, it was revealed that much of the “secret sauce” that the NSA tried to boast about was already known to many corporations that had invested in their own security efforts and sometimes those corporations would know things that would be news to the government spymasters.
@War touches on the role of law and politics in the growing cyber realm that complicates the situation. It provides a recent history retelling utilizing revelations from WikiLeaks and Edward Snowden. It covered topics such as the government structure, the FBI using spyware, corporations hacking back, and many more angles to the story. I found this to bog the story down with details and most of it I had heard or read about before, making re-reading it more tedious than if I were new to the topic.
Overall, I’d give @War a 3 out of 5 stars. It managed to impart some new details but relied heavily on telling some well-known parts of the story which made it heavy-handed and slow-going. If you are not as familiar with the recent history and development of cyber-security, @War should provide a better, detailed non-fiction story. If you’ve paid attention to security news in the last decade, you can skim the chapters and may pick up a few details while wishing for a more concise version of the story.
@War: The Rise of the Military-Internet Complex was published in November 2014 and is available from Amazon.com.