Dark Territory: The Secret History of Cyber WarIn the early 1990s, NSA Director Mike McConnell created a brand-new position at the National Security Agency: Director of Information Warfare.  McConnell appointed Rich Wilhelm, with whom McConnell had worked closely on U.S. counter-command & -control intelligence operations during the first Iraq war.  After just a few weeks settling into his new job, Wilhelm walked into Director McConnell’s office and said “Mike, we’re kind of f***ed here.”

The problem?  The U.S. could penetrate and disrupt foreign adversaries’ increasingly computerized military, government, and civic infrastructures, and it was already clear that future conflicts would turn upon what would only later be dubbed cyber warfare.  But whatever we could do to our adversaries, they could do to us.  Making matters worse, the U.S. military, civilian governmental agencies, and private businesses were rapidly connecting everything in computer networks, with no meaningful attention paid to network security.  We’d be throwing rocks from the largest glass house on the planet.

In Dark Territory: The Secret History of Cyber War, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Fred Kaplan adroitly distills over one hundred key player interviews –  from U.S. cabinet secretaries, generals, admirals, and NSA directors, to analysts, aides, and officers in the trenches – into a riveting narrative that tracks the debut, developments, and dilemmas of cyber warfare.

Kaplan’s book is a cyber roller coaster ride spanning three decades.  Here are some notable highs and lows:
Continue Reading The TAO of Cyber Warfare: Dark Territory

Weapons of Math DestructionThe hand-wringing continues about robots, and for whose jobs they’re coming next. But the “robots” needn’t be tangible to transform our lives. Actually, they’re already here, in the form of big data algorithms – predictive mathematical models fueled by astounding computing power and endless supplies of data.

This doesn’t have to be ominous.  Well-designed models, properly applied, are a beautiful thing.  But some models are toxic, and such bad modeling has become ubiquitous, with far-reaching impacts on where we go to school; how we get a job and how we’re evaluated; how we get and maintain financial credit and insurance; what information we access online; how we participate in elections and civic life; and how we are treated by law enforcement and the judicial system.  That’s why Cathy O’Neil’s book Weapons of Math Destruction is such an important book for our time. 
Continue Reading Big data gone bad: Weapons of Math Destruction