Book Review: Lights Out: A Cyberattack, A Nation Unprepared, Surviving the Aftermath by Ted Koppel

Lights Out: A Cyberattack, A Nation Unprepared, Surviving the Aftermath is not what I would call a typical prepper book, if there is such a thing, instead it is a serious look at a very plausible scenario and the ways in which it is and is not being addressed by both government and the private sector. The scenario is a cyberattack on the computers that control the US electric grid. Given the nature of cybercrime this is an extremely plausible scenario.

The book itself is not huge at 249 pages of text and includes notes and an index but no bibliography. Ted Koppel is a respected journalist who has not been tarred by accusations of journalistic bias in the past few years as have so many others. Koppel was the host of ABC’s Nightline for over 25 years and the worst that can be said about him is that he faced accusations of conservative bias in the 1980’s.

Lights Out explains how and why the US electric grid is vulnerable to cyberattack due to aging infrastructure and anemic network security features. He explores the ramifications of an attack on the grid that would bring it down and the astonishing lack of preparedness of both the government and utilities to such an attack. He discusses at length the inability of the US to manufacture replacement equipment in any timely fashion that would leave potentially millions of people without power for months at a minimum and do untold damage to life, property, and the wider American economy.

This book is a sober examination of an extremely vulnerable sector of America and a shocking examination of the dearth of preparedness on the part of the government and utilities who carry on as though while an attack is possible it is unlikely. Koppel correctly highlights the fact that a cyberattack can be mounted not only by a nation such as Iran, China, or Russia, but it is also possible for terrorist groups or even a lone hacker to execute an attack given the lack of security of Americas electricity generation infrastructure. Any sufficiently knowledgeable and motivated individual could pull of such an attack.

This is an excellent book and one that I highly recommend. Koppel explains very complex issues in a manner that the laymen can understand. An excellent book.