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Qualifier: I am only halfway through the book, so what I write is based on the first half of the book. And yes, I read half the book this morning and expect to finish it tonight (which does not happen often for me). Mark Bowden takes us on an exhilarating chronology of the Conficker virus, along with flashbacks that set up the story and all of its major players in context. Bowden seems to have gained widespread knowledge of the technical aspects of the malware industry, and yet he creates analogies to help those who are both tech savvy and tech challenged understand what transpired. I am particularly delighted that he threw Cliff Stoll into the backstory (twice so far). Cliff Stoll wrote the fantastic "The Cuckoo's Egg: Tracking a Spy Through the Maze of Computer Espionage," which I also recommend to everyone who cares about computers, government, and espionage. Besides, Cliff is a wonderful person, as I got to know him in the 1990s.
"Worm" is also pretty current, as it came to press only recently, and includes references to many current events--both in the computer world and the physical world. My only negative critique is that there seem to be a half-dozen editing errors scattered throughout the book, which I suspect is the result of rushing this book to the presses: just typical things like repeated words or wrong words.
Still, GET THE BOOK AND READ IT!
By Deborah Hart
For most of us the work the CWG is incomprehensible; so I don't know whether to thank Mr. Bowen for writing it in a way that I could understand, or to build a bunker and stockpile for an eventual cyber meltdown. Either way I recommend this book to anyone with a iota of curiosity about how the Internet actually works and what threat those who wish to do harm bring to the entire connected world.
Not enough meat
I'm torn between feeling I wasted my time and money on this book and at least feeling better informed. There are really two stories here, one about the human side including the characters if the people primarily involved and the way in which internal politics and a general insular and self serving attitude makes our government so incapable of acting until someone's job is on the line. The other side is the side dealing with the computer / Internet guts that make viruses and worms possible. The first aspect is relatively well treated, though a bit disjointed due probably to trying to keep a timeline going at the same time as he tries to introduce the characters which inevitably requires digressions. The second aspect is way too thin. He mentions at the end the amount of time and effort the main actors gave him to try to explain it all to him, a relative novice to the world of computer geeks not to mention the rarified group involved. I don't feel like he passed the favor on. Lack of understanding contributes to our ability to take this subject as seriously as we should. We should be lobbying for a radical restructuring of the Internet which while it isn't likely to eliminate all possible malicious software, should at least make it much easier to cope with such infection and make life a lot harder for the perpetrators.
I was hoping for something like James Gleick's masterful book Chaos that perfectly mixed both the personal and technical and left you with at least a decent understanding of what the people at the beginning of the field had discovered and a basic knowledge of hoe it worked. I felt like this author didn't even try. Perhaps in this age of books written days after events happen, writers just don't have the time to do the research or spend the time needed to really convey such information. I wish they did.
By far, the best books I've read this year!
I can't remember the last time I had that "can't put the book down feeling". The last few years I always felt guilty if I wasn't reading some type of technical manual or learning some new programming language. Yes, I'm a geek.. but nowhere near X-men class, as the people described in the book. Now I aspire to learn more and about security and build my "do no evil white hat tactics.
I'm shocked at how fragile our Internet connected world has become and how close we've come to near utter failure (and continue to be driving towards). At the same time, I'm humbled and inspired to know there are selfless good people out there working tirelessly to protect the Internet for the rest of us.. nothing short of superheroes.
Where are the spell checkers?
This is a good, fast read, even for a non-Geek like me. However, there were so many grammatical errors, it took away from the experience.