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Abstract: The Perfect Weapon is the startling inside story of how the rise of cyberweapons in all their forms—from attacks on electric grids to attacks on electoral systems—has transformed geopolitics like nothing since the invention of the airplane and the atomic bomb. Cheap to acquire, easy to deny, usable for everything from crippling infrastructure to sowing discord and doubt, cyber is now the weapon of choice for American presidents, North Korean dictators, Iranian mullahs, and Kremlin officials. The United States struck early with the most sophisticated cyber attack in history, Operation Olympic Games, which used malicious code to blow up Iran’s nuclear centrifuges, and it has gone on to use cyberweapons against North Korean missiles and the Islamic State. Soon, the cyber floodgates opened. But as the global cyber conflict took off, America turned out to be remarkably unprepared. Its own weapons were stolen from the American arsenal by a group called Shadow Brokers and were quickly turned against the United States and its allies. Even while the United States built up a powerful new Cyber Command, it had no doctrine for how to use it. Deterrence failed. When under attack—by Russia, China, or even Iran and North Korea —the government was often paralyzed, unable to use cyberweapons because America’s voting system, its electrical system, and even routers in citizens’ homes had been infiltrated by foreign hackers. American citizens became the collateral damage in a war they barely understood, one that was being fought in foreign computer networks and along undersea cables.
Speaker Bio: David 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.