Military Book Reviews

Cyberspace in Peace and War

Cyberspace in Peace and War by Martin C. Libicki (Naval Institute Press, 2nd Edition, 2021, 512 pages)

Martin Libicki has crafted a dense, complex, but readable volume that allows for either a review of general concepts or a deep dive into cyberspace policy and warfare.

The author has the subject matter knowledge, experience, and narrative style essential to explain complex terms in understandable and often ingenious ways. He fits cyberspace and war in cyberspace into existing concepts and frameworks such as international law, counterterrorism, the law of war, organized crime, espionage, and deterrence. Reference to time-tested concepts make the story both familiar and interesting. This is not a trivial subject, but Libicki makes it approachable.

The book begins by listing dozens of actual cyber-attacks, when and how they occurred, who suffered, results, and responses — a well-researched summary of the history of cyber warfare.  Libicki then describes the basics of cyber-attacks, including insider threats, malware insertion, finding weak links, and understanding the security chain. He offers a thorough treatment of tactical, strategic, and deterrent styles of action in cyberspace as well as an analysis of what works, what does not, and why.  The author’s explanation of the different motives, goals, and styles of assorted cyberspace players aids understanding of the scope, quantity, and variety of cyber attacks including strengths, weaknesses, paradoxes, myths, and misunderstandings. With over one hundred pages of notes and references, Cyberspace in Peace and War provides a key to further research and reading.

This book is an authoritative and useful guidebook to an often obscure and complex domain, environment, and battle space. While not a tool for hacker mayhem and mischief, Libicki clearly explains them. The detailed treatment of threat vectors, vulnerabilities, tradeoffs, and risk decisions can serve as a lesson in effective engagement in cybersecurity policy and practice.

Although technically deep and detailed enough for policy makers, the book is accessible for those with a basic military science background. It could easily serve as the text for a formal War College class on cybersecurity and cyber warfare. Cyberspace in Peace and War is also an enjoyable read, just not a quick or casual one. Further, this second edition is tightly organized, polished, and contains thorough references.

Reviewed by LCDR Christopher J. Krus, USN (ret.). Note: The Naval Institute Press is part of the US Naval Institute; of which the reviewer is a Life Member. 
Christopher J. Krus, LCDR USN (ret.) served as a Naval Flight Officer and Civil Engineer Corps Officer.  He logged over 1600 special aircrew hours in the EP-3E Aires II, qualified as a TLAM strike planner, and is a member of the Defense Acquisition Corps. He is a government engineering manager, university instructor, professional engineer, and certified energy manager with a practice focus on sustainable construction, urban resilience, utilities, and controls.

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