Book Review: Introduction to cyber-warfare: A multidisciplinary approach by Paulo Shakarian, Jana Shakarian, and Andrew Ruef

All leaders in the United States military should be required to read Introduction to cyber-warfare: A multidisciplinary approach.[1]  Paulo Shakarian, Jana Shakarian, and Andrew Ruef authored this book to address the need for knowledge and an understanding of the complexity of Cyber warfare from more than a computer science or information technology perspective.  The authors examine key areas of Cyber warfare that are extremely important for a leader in the United States military to understand from more than a military application alone.  As stated in the title, the book uses a multidisciplinary approach to explaining Cyber warfare by using case studies, technical information, as well as the military, political, scientific, and social ramifications of Cyber warfare.  The following outlines the order of this paper: an analysis of the authors’ qualifications, a summary of the book, and a brief statement of the strengths and weaknesses of the book.  Throughout the review, references from the book support the analysis presented.

First discussed is the authors’ expertise and a brief overview of the sources used.  Each of the authors brings unique expertise from their relevant fields that include the perspectives of a Cyber security researcher, a social science researcher, and an information security analyst.  Each author brings a different viewpoint on Cyber warfare.  This multi-disciplinary approach makes the book unique and relevant to a wide variety of readers.  There are more than one hundred diverse sources cited in this book that are relevant to the topics discussed and support the assertions made by the authors.

Instead of simply organizing the book chronologically over the evolution of Cyber warfare, the authors formed their work into three parts: Cyber-attack, Cyber espionage and exploitation, and Cyber operations for infrastructure attack.  This approach allowed the authors to group the ideas into three distinct areas to explain how Cyber is used to achieve political objectives, steal data, and attack physical infrastructure.

Sorting the topics into these three areas enabled the authors to emphasize their evidence in support of their conclusions in an organized manner.  The authors used specific examples as evidence.  Russia’s use of Cyber in military operations, Israel-Hezbollah Cyber-attacks on each other, China’s use of Cyber to steal data, and the attack on Iran’s nuclear facility are some of these examples.  All are critical to the areas of focused in the book.  Without discussion of these topics and case studies, the book would not have the desired impact or intended validity.

While a strength of this book is the multiple perspectives it provides, having multiple authors is also one of the most significant weaknesses of the book.  Some sections of the book are very technical while others just skim the surface of the technical details.  In order for this book to be effectively utilized by the greatest audience within the military leadership, technical details should be explained or only included at a level appropriate to an audience without computer science or information technology background.

To conclude, the authors masterfully used Introduction to cyber-warfare: A multidisciplinary approach to fill a gap within the Cyber knowledge base and provide a tool for military leaders to access to keep abreast of changes in the conduct of warfare.  This book takes a uniquely diverse approach to discussing Cyber warfare and instructs the reader on the complexities of its conduct.  Therefore, this book should be required reading for military leadership.

[1] Shakarian, Paulo, Jana Shakarian, and Andrew Ruef. Introduction to cyber-warfare: A multidisciplinary approach. Newnes, 2013.