America the Vulnerable: Inside the New Threat Matrix of Digital Espionage, Crime, and Warfare [NOOK Book]


Now available in a new edition entitled GLASS HOUSES: Privacy, Secrecy, and Cyber Insecurity in a Transparent World.

A former top-level National Security Agency insider goes behind the headlines to explore America's next great battleground: digital security. An urgent wake-up call that identifies our foes; unveils their methods; and charts the dire consequences for ...
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America the Vulnerable: Inside the New Threat Matrix of Digital Espionage, Crime, and Warfare

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Now available in a new edition entitled GLASS HOUSES: Privacy, Secrecy, and Cyber Insecurity in a Transparent World.

A former top-level National Security Agency insider goes behind the headlines to explore America's next great battleground: digital security. An urgent wake-up call that identifies our foes; unveils their methods; and charts the dire consequences for government, business, and individuals.

Shortly after 9/11, Joel Brenner entered the inner sanctum of American espionage, first as the inspector general of the National Security Agency, then as the head of counterintelligence for the director of national intelligence. He saw at close range the battleground on which our adversaries are now attacking us-cyberspace. We are at the mercy of a new generation of spies who operate remotely from China, the Middle East, Russia, even France, among many other places. These operatives have already shown their ability to penetrate our power plants, steal our latest submarine technology, rob our banks, and invade the Pentagon's secret communications systems.

Incidents like the WikiLeaks posting of secret U.S. State Department cables hint at the urgency of this problem, but they hardly reveal its extent or its danger. Our government and corporations are a "glass house," all but transparent to our adversaries. Counterfeit computer chips have found their way into our fighter aircraft; the Chinese stole a new radar system that the navy spent billions to develop; our own soldiers used intentionally corrupted thumb drives to download classified intel from laptops in Iraq. And much more.

Dispatches from the corporate world are just as dire. In 2008, hackers lifted customer files from the Royal Bank of Scotland and used them to withdraw $9 million in half an hour from ATMs in the United States, Britain, and Canada. If that was a traditional heist, it would be counted as one of the largest in history. Worldwide, corporations lose on average $5 million worth of intellectual property apiece annually, and big companies lose many times that.

The structure and culture of the Internet favor spies over governments and corporations, and hackers over privacy, and we've done little to alter that balance. Brenner draws on his extraordinary background to show how to right this imbalance and bring to cyberspace the freedom, accountability, and security we expect elsewhere in our lives.

In America the Vulnerable, Brenner offers a chilling and revelatory appraisal of the new faces of war and espionage-virtual battles with dangerous implications for government, business, and all of us.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Brenner, a former inspector general for the National Security Agency, raises the alarm about inadequately addressed threats and vulnerabilities to computer and communications systems. He offers a comprehensive seven-point program to deal with what he calls "a new kind of espionage," which would require cooperation from all sectors of government and a change in attitude from the private sector. In his assessment, the problem is the convergence of threats targeting the government as much as the private sector, and civilians as much as military security institutions. Using case studies, he shows that this results in attacks on privacy and personal information instead of just secrets of governmental organizations. Brenner mentions the work of criminal gangs, as well as intelligence services, to discuss where responsibility lies and how to prove a crime occurred. This problem has been addressed by administrations unsuccessfully since the 1980s and Brenner believes more needs to be done soon. This alarming account by an expert is worthy of serious attention from policy makers and average readers alike. (Sept.)
-Joseph Nye
"Cybercrime, espionage, and warfare are among the great challenges of this century, but as Joel Brenner argues, we are woefully ill-prepared to meet them. Drawing on history, law, economics, common sense, and his rare experience in counterintelligence, Brenner deftly describes the problems and offers a series of very practical solutions. This book is both well written and convincing."
-Vint Cerf
"If you have a responsibility for protecting intellectual property, trade secrets and other instruments of successful business; if you are responsible for protecting national information and technology interests then you have a responsibility to read this book. Bring a change of underwear."
-Ambassador Henry A. Crumpton
"America the Vulnerable offers an expert's keen insight into the netherworld of cyberrisk. Rich in facts, stories, and analysis, the book is a clarion call for more effective cyberpolicies and practices in both the government and private sector. America should take heed."
-Richard Clarke
"Brenner takes us inside the daily battle in the world of cyber espionage, where China and others are stealing American corporations' 'secret sauce.' He shows us the on-going cyber war that the US is losing."
-Eliot Cohen
"Joel Brenner is a quiet hero-a lawyer who, after 9/11, forsook a prosperous life to serve the United States on a different kind of front line: the world of intelligence. He has written a book about cyberspace that will inform his fellow citizens-and should trouble them deeply. Any reader, casually familiar with the hacking and computer mischief that one reads about daily, will nonetheless be appalled at what he learns here about the scope of cyberespionage, crime, and malicious action that has already been directed against private citizens, corporations, and the government. A lucid, scary, and very important book."
-David Smick
"Joel Brenner's book should be front and center in the 2012 presidential race. Scarier than a Stephen King novel-only this is nonfiction!"
Library Journal
The Chinese steal a radar system from the U.S. Navy. Corporations yearly lose an average of $5 million worth of intellectual property each to cybertheft. Brenner, a former senior counsel at the National Security Agency, argues that we have done nowhere near enough to protect our government, our industries, and ourselves from the security risks posed by the Internet. Scary; hope folks pay attention.
Kirkus Reviews

A former National Counterintelligence Executive for the NSA writes that the United States is right now being infiltrated by online spies, thieves and virtual warriors.

While that may sound dire—and it is—Brenner's tone throughout is less alarming than resolute. His main point is that leaders in both the private and public sectors, who have known about these threats for years, need to finally get serious about defending the nation's secrets, wealth and electronic infrastructure. The author's background as a former anti-trust prosecutor is on impressive display as he mounts his case with meticulous attention to detail. He begins with the fact that private information is now open for inspection, but waning of personal privacy is only a hint of the insecurity the digital age has brought about. Malware from infected e-mail attachments, websites, thumb drives or even silicon chips can commandeer our computers for nefarious purposes an ocean away while we sleep. They can also open portals into corporate or government systems, allowing foreign agents to swipe their secrets or potentially take control of anything they operate over the Internet, including regional electricity grids and other essential infrastructure. Brenner notes that China has, since the early 1980s, been preparing for a new kind of warfare, aimed specifically at the U.S., that can be waged entirely via electronic signals. In one provocative chapter titled "June 2017," the author plausibly outlines the events of a hypothetical "war" between the U.S. and China for control of the Asian Pacific, culminating in a private demonstration to the president and his national-security team of China's ability to shut down the nation's electrical grid at will. "With the exception of successful attacks on our electricity grid," writes the author, "virtually every aspect of this fictional scenario has already happened."The final chapter offers multiple steps we can take to radically improve national cyber-security.

A sobering, sober-minded manifesto.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781101547830
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA)
  • Publication date: 9/29/2011
  • Sold by: Penguin Group
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 320
  • Sales rank: 642,638
  • File size: 372 KB

Meet the Author

Joel Brenner is a former senior counsel at the National Security Agency, where he advised on legal and policy issues relating to network security. Previously, he served as the national counterintelligence executive in the Office of the Director of National Intelligence and as NSA's inspector general. He is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Madison (B.A.), The London School of Economics (Ph.D.), and Harvard Law School (J.D.). Brenner currently practices law in Washington, D.C., specializing in cyber-security and related issues.
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 2 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 22, 2014

    An eye opening worthwhile read

    An eye opening worthwhile read, that I perpetually refer back to as a starting point for all research on cyber security.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 19, 2014

    Joel Brenner's ''Glass Houses'' is an in-depth look into the wor

    Joel Brenner's ''Glass Houses'' is an in-depth look into the world of domestic security. There is no one better to tell the stories of U.S intelligence issues and secrecy. Brenner is the former senior counsel at the National Security Agency where he was in charge of keeping U.S. intelligence safe from foreign spies. The first chapter tells of a time when Chinese intelligence spies were able to hack into the United States intelligence computers and stole so much information that it was unknown. The problem here was that nobody had encrypted the information so it could not be tracked; the information was lost.  From this story on, Brenner's accounts of his days back in the NSA are interesting to read about as citizens rarely get to see what goes on behind the scenes of the NSA. This book is incredibly helpful to read in today’s world as so much news is going on with Snowden and all the NSA phone tapping. The book focuses on how secrecy and privacy are very hard to find when technology is advancing so quickly. It is important to keep citizens safe as the NSA continues to argue; however, Brenner does make a point that it is the job of citizens to keep themselves safe, not the government’s job. 

    I really enjoyed the detail Brenner was able to go into with some of the stories he told as usually anything that has to do with intelligence is “top secret” and only a privileged few can know details. Brenner tries to keep the writing lively, but the book covers a very serious topic and can sometimes be dry. I only had a few times when the reading was slow. Other than that it was gripping and I wanted to know more. This book is for anybody who likes history and learning about United States secrets as this book gives you both.  

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