cover image This Is How They Tell Me the World Ends: The Cyber Weapons Arms Race

This Is How They Tell Me the World Ends: The Cyber Weapons Arms Race

Nicole Perlroth. Bloomsbury, $30 (512p) ISBN 978-1-63557-605-4

New York Times cybersecurity reporter Perlroth debuts with a colorful rundown of threats to the world’s digital infrastructure. She pays particular attention to “zero-days,” a term for “a software or hardware flaw for which there is no existing patch.” Though she notes their rarity (98% of cyberattacks do not involve zero-days or malware), Perlroth argues that the destructive capacity of cyberweapons like Stuxnet, a code comprising seven zero-day exploits that was used by the U.S. and Israel to disable uranium centrifuges at an Iranian nuclear plant, makes them an existential threat. She details the underground market for cyberweapons, where hackers can earn millions of dollars by finding a flaw in commonly used technologies such as Microsoft Windows, and explains how the U.S. lost its global monopoly on zero-day exploits in 2016, when a group calling itself the Shadow Brokers released a trove of NSA hacking tools. Perlroth’s searing account of the role American hubris played in creating the zero-day market hits the mark, but she leaves many technical details about cyberweapons unexplained, and stuffs the book with superfluous details about getting her sources to spill. This breathless account raises alarms but adds little of substance to the debate over cyberweapons. (Feb.)