In 2015, Russian hackers tunneled deep into the computer systems of the Democratic National Committee, and the subsequent leaks of the emails they stole may have changed the course of American democracy. But to see the DNC hacks as Trump-centric is to miss the bigger, more important story: Within that same year, the Russians not only had broken into networks at the White House, the State Department, and the Joint Chiefs of Staff, but had placed implants in American electrical and nuclear plants that could give them the power to switch off vast swaths of the country. This was the culmination of a decade of escalating digital sabotage among the world’s powers, in which Americans became the collateral damage as China, Iran, North Korea, and Russia battled in cyberspace to undercut one another in daily just-short-of-war conflict.
The Perfect Weapon is the startling inside story of how the rise of cyberweapons transformed geopolitics like nothing since the invention of the atomic bomb. Cheap to acquire, easy to deny, and usable for a variety of malicious purposes—from crippling infrastructure to sowing discord and doubt—cyber is now the weapon of choice for democracies, dictators, and terrorists. Two presidents—Bush and Obama—drew first blood with Operation Olympic Games, which used malicious code to blow up Iran’s nuclear centrifuges, and yet America proved remarkably unprepared when its own weapons were stolen from its arsenal and, during President Trump’s first year, turned back on the US and its allies. The government was often paralyzed, unable to threaten the use of cyberweapons because America was so vulnerable to crippling attacks on its own networks of banks, utilities, and government agencies.
Moving from the White House Situation Room to the dens of Chinese government hackers to the boardrooms of Silicon Valley, New York Times national security correspondent David Sanger—who broke the story of Olympic Games in his previous book—reveals a world coming face-to-face with the perils of technological revolution. The Perfect Weapon is the dramatic story of how great and small powers alike slipped into a new era of constant sabotage, misinformation, and fear, in which everyone is a target.
About the Author
DAVID E. SANGER is national security correspondent for the New York Times and bestselling author of The Inheritance and Confront and Conceal. He has been a member of three teams that won the Pulitzer Prize, including in 2017 for international reporting. A regular contributor to CNN, he also teaches national security policy at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government.
"[Sanger’s] description of the cyber portion of Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential election is thorough and convincing. It ought to be required reading for anyone who doubts the extent and seriousness of the Russian effort… The great value of The Perfect Weapon is less in its specific policy prescriptions than in its being the most comprehensive, readable source of information and insight about the policy quandaries that modern information technology and its destructive potential have spawned.”
—The New York Times
“Timely and bracing… With the deep knowledge and bright clarity that have long characterized his work, Sanger recounts the cunning and dangerous development of cyberspace into the global battlefield of the 21st century… A reader finishes this book fully understanding why cyberwar has moved rapidly to the top of America’s official list of national security threats. And why, for the first time in three generations, this nation’s power in the world is seriously threatened.”
—David Von Drehle, The Washington Post
"This encyclopedic account by a Times correspondent traces the rapid rise of cyberwarfare capabilities and warns that ideas about how to control them are only beginning to emerge."
—The New York Times Book Review (Editor's Choice)
“In his new book, The Perfect Weapon, Sanger offers a panoramic view of the rapidly evolving world of cyber-conflict. He covers incidents from the covert U.S. cyber-campaign to sabotage Iran’s nuclear program (a story we know about largely because of Sanger’s diligent reporting) to Edward Snowden’s epic heist of National Security Agency data. And yes, there’s also plenty of background on Russia’s active measures during the 2016 campaign. But there’s also a wealth of gripping material on stories that have probably been missed by the broader public… It all adds up to a persuasive argument for the truth of the book’s title.”
—Christian Caryl, The Washington Post
“[The Perfect Weapon is] an important—and deeply sobering—new book about cyberwarfare.”
—Nicholas Kristof, New York Times
"A chilling new book."
—The Financial Times
“Anyone who doubts cyber’s unintended consequences should read David Sanger’s new book The Perfect Weapon: War, Sabotage, and Fear in the Cyber Age. Sanger, a reporter for The New York Times, has been a dogged and diligent observer of cybersecurity issues for years. His book is a readable account of what went wrong.”
—Robert Samuelson, The Washington Post
“[The Perfect Weapon] reads like a thriller spy novel, except the stories are true, which makes the book more terrifying… Sanger shows the political, military, and economic impacts of actual hacks, moves made by governments and industry to counter moves and protect against future attacks, and the counter to the counter to the counter, all told at a breathtaking pace. But this is more than just a real-life drama; it also is a cautionary tale of the policy of information power… This book at turns was both fascinating in its detail and access and terrifying in its implications.”
“[Sanger] has penned one of the most comprehensive and accessible histories of cyberwar to date… Sanger’s book is more than a history and primer. It also advances a series of arguments, among them that the United States is not ready for the kind of cyberattack to come.”
—Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists