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This Is How They Tell Me The World Ends | Nicole Perlroth

This is how they tell me the world ends: The Cyber Weapons Arms Race.

Business Book Of The Year 2021 (Financial Times).

Again, another really, really interesting book that blows the lid off a part of the world I did not know much about. I’d put it up there with ‘The World For Sale’ which exposed the world of the commodity trade and the book I read absolutely ages ago (whose name I can’t now remember!) about the sovereign wealth fund. Basically, there is a lot of stuff happening behind the scenes that constrain and shape human agency. Cyber attacks is now a now one. It could do more than just be a considering factor too.

One anecdote that stuck with me was the Iranian attack on the Bowman Dam in New York. The Iranians thought they’d hacked the much larger dam of the same name in Washington State. For a brief period of time, Obama’s administration thought they had got inside the bigger one too. If they had, they could have opened the gates and flooded hundreds of thousands of US homes with a huge loss of life. The US were considering retaliatory military strikes on Iran to a similar proportion until it was realised that the Iranians had mistakenly got inside the smaller Nee York dam – which it just so happened was off line anyway for maintenance!

If a lesson was to be made from this it would…

a) Lead with the above anecdote (double check for dates and names)

b) A discussion of what 0 day hacks are (when a hacker discovers a weakness that nobody else knows about – these are called 0 day hacks and can be sold on the black market – or on the legitimate market to state security services for hundreds of thousands of millions.

c) A table collation task for the following evolution of cyber attacks:

a. Stuxnet

b. Pegasus

c. Ukraine-Russia attack

d NRA leak

e. Election hack by Russia

f. Iran and China Deals – and their collapse.

g. NHS ransomware attack.

What became clear was, not really surprisingly, just how catastrophic Trump’s presidency had been. Obama had convinced both the Iranians and the Chinese to cool off their attacks in exchange for certain promises and trade deals. Trump blew both of those up and sure enough, both began scooping up billions of dollars’ worth of US content and secrets.

Another observation would be the difference in the way the US and other nations conduct their cyber security industry, with the US losing their talent to private companies while in more authoritarian regimes top talent is forced straight out of university into their cyber programs. Obviously, both come with advantages and disadvantages, as ever was thus with the US system of capitalism.

A suitable question to end on having completed the table might be something along the lines of which event was the most significant at shaping international relations? Each info sheet would need to obviously then have a sort ‘what was it?’ and ‘what impact did it have’. In fact, it could just be an open resource exercise. That would probably be far better as it would allow for a lot more scope and study.


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