Countdown to Zero Day: Stuxnet and the Launch of the World's First Digital Weapon

Countdown to Zero Day: Stuxnet and the Launch of the World's First Digital Weapon

by Kim Zetter


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Countdown to Zero Day: Stuxnet and the Launch of the World's First Digital Weapon by Kim Zetter

Top cybersecurity journalist Kim Zetter tells the story behind the virus that sabotaged Iran’s nuclear efforts and shows how its existence has ushered in a new age of warfare—one in which a digital attack can have the same destructive capability as a megaton bomb.
In January 2010, inspectors with the International Atomic Energy Agency noticed that centrifuges at an Iranian uranium enrichment plant were failing at an unprecedented rate. The cause was a complete mystery—apparently as much to the technicians replacing the centrifuges as to the inspectors observing them.
Then, five months later, a seemingly unrelated event occurred: A computer security firm in Belarus was called in to troubleshoot some computers in Iran that were crashing and rebooting repeatedly.
 At first, the firm’s programmers believed the malicious code on the machines was a simple, routine piece of malware. But as they and other experts around the world investigated, they discovered a mysterious virus of unparalleled complexity.
They had, they soon learned, stumbled upon the world’s first digital weapon. For Stuxnet, as it came to be known, was unlike any other virus or worm built before: Rather than simply hijacking targeted computers or stealing information from them, it escaped the digital realm to wreak actual, physical destruction on a nuclear facility. 
In these pages, Wired journalist Kim Zetter draws on her extensive sources and expertise to tell the story behind Stuxnet’s planning, execution, and discovery, covering its genesis in the corridors of Bush’s White House and its unleashing on systems in Iran—and telling the spectacular, unlikely tale of the security geeks who managed to unravel a sabotage campaign years in the making.
But Countdown to Zero Day ranges far beyond Stuxnet itself. Here, Zetter shows us how digital warfare developed in the US. She takes us inside today’s flourishing zero-day “grey markets,” in which intelligence agencies and militaries pay huge sums for the malicious code they need to carry out infiltrations and attacks. She reveals just how vulnerable many of our own critical systems are to Stuxnet-like strikes, from nation-state adversaries and anonymous hackers alike—and shows us just what might happen should our infrastructure be targeted by such an attack.
Propelled by Zetter’s unique knowledge and access, and filled with eye-opening explanations of the technologies involved, Countdown to Zero Day is a comprehensive and prescient portrait of a world at the edge of a new kind of war.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780770436193
Publisher: Crown/Archetype
Publication date: 09/01/2015
Pages: 448
Sales rank: 162,021
Product dimensions: 7.90(w) x 5.20(h) x 1.00(d)

About the Author

KIM ZETTER is an award-winning journalist who covers cybercrime, civil liberties, privacy, and security for Wired. She was among the first journalists to cover Stuxnet after its discovery and has authored many of the most comprehensive articles about it. She has also broken numerous stories over the years about WikiLeaks and Bradley Manning, NSA surveillance, and the hacker underground.

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Excerpted from "Countdown to Zero Day"
by .
Copyright © 2015 Kim Zetter.
Excerpted by permission of Crown/Archetype.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Prologue: The Case of the Centrifuges 1

1 Early Warning 5

2 500 Kilobytes of Mystery 19

3 Natanz 33

4 Stuxnet Deconstructed 52

5 Springtime for Ahmadinejad 69

6 Digging for Zero Days 38

7 Zero-Day Paydays 99

8 The Payload 116

9 Industrial Controls Out of Control 129

10 Precision Weapon 166

11 A Digital Plot Is Hatched 190

12 A New Fighting Domain 205

13 Digital Warheads 227

14 Son of Stuxnet 249

15 Flame 276

16 Olympic Games 308

17 The Mystery of the Centrifuges 336

18 Qualified Success 359

19 Digital Pandora 371

Acknowledgments 407

Index 413

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Countdown to Zero Day: Stuxnet and the Launch of the World's First Digital Weapon 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 4 reviews.
Anonymous 6 months ago
This book was very detailed and did a very commendable job of tackling an extremely detailed subject. I had no idea how little I knew about the subject and the pieces of the story never really covered sufficiently in the news. It is not an easy read by any means, and it takes a good amount of time to finish it, but I learned alot and am glad I read it.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Kim Zetter smoothly takes you from the discovery of a strange little bit of computer code by an antivirus firm through the process of unraveling it, and from underground Iranian nuclear labs to the White House as she examines the international security implications of the first known digital weapon. As well crafted as any spy thriller, it's also a clear introduction to the dissection of malware and a great inspiration to computer security folks and system administrators.
robtennant More than 1 year ago
Ominous Truth in ‘Countdown’ tter I found Kim Zetter’s ‘Countdown to Zero Day’ to be an extraordinarily challenging read because of the implications in what is written. Zetter is an outstanding writer who keeps the reader in suspense in her telling of all that happened in the series of Stuxnet cyber-attacks. The most chilling observation comes in the way she talks about ‘firsts.’ The same country that launched the world into the age of atomic weapons is the one who launched the world into the age of cyber warfare. And it was done as an attempt to cutoff future nuclear conflicts. The irony would be worthy of an eye-roll if the implications weren’t so ominous. As wonderful as Zetter’s writing was, I did at points find myself bogged down in the technical details of computer code and computer viruses. In the acknowledgements at the end of the book, she notes the difficulty of composing a compelling tale and at the same time being true to the necessity of comprehensive technical description. I appreciated her transparency in the challenge of accomplishing both (a well-written story and one that would satisfy people who know about code, which I do not). I think she accomplished the goal. It was easy for me to skim the portions that were beyond my capacity regarding technical description. It did not detract from me getting into the narrative she shared. The bottom line is this book makes me feel a bit less secure about the future of international conflict. This book is another in the line of works that show how the computer age is a dangerous equalizer. For me the first such book was Friedman’s ‘The World is Flat.’ Zetter’s work shows the next logical step in the flattening of the world. I hope someone overly talented programmer with serious emotional imbalance in his life doesn’t launch a virus or other type of attack that destroys crucial systems nationwide. I hope that type of catastrophe doesn’t happen. After reading ‘Countdown to Zero Day,’ I kind of think it will. And that is scary. Disclaimer - I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago