Countdown to Zero Day is the story of what is touted as the world’s first cyber weapon – a targeted computer attack against the nuclear program in Iran which was launched by operatives of the US government. As someone with an interest in computers and internet security matters in general, this was right up my alley, and I didn’t need much effort to understand the concepts which were being discussed in this book.
Stuxnet – the computer worm/virus in question – was launched by the US government as a way of slowing, or destroying the Iranians’ ability to refine nuclear material in preparation for making a nuclear weapon. Seen as less dangerous than a direct military attack, they found a way of turning an attack in the cyber world of computers into a destructive force in the kinetic, or physical world.
I found the material, although highly technical by necessity at times, was well-presented, and easily understandable as the author unravels the various mysteries involved in the story. It delves into the dark world of the trade in Zero Day computer exploits, and the people who work to uncover them and keep the rest of us safe. Rather than glorifying the story of those who ‘saved the day’ if one were taking a western-oriented view of the world, the real heroes of the story are those trying to find the truth behind the mystery.
The book doesn’t shy away from its criticism of the countries or agencies who might seek to exploit, rather than act to protect the community. I guess there are always likely to be some kind of collateral damage in whatever kind of war you decide to wage.
Countdown to Zero Day was an interesting and informative read, offering a vision into the potential of future warfare. While it would certainly appeal to people with a general interest in technology, it is a book that should be read by anyone with an interest in the future of politics.