New York Times Book Review of 'The Next Threat to National Security and What to Do About It' by Richard A. Clarke and Robert K. Knake. 290 pages. Ecco/HarperCollins Publishers. $25.99.
Gas pipelines explode. Chemical plants release clouds of toxic chlorine. Banks lose all their data. Weather and communication satellites spin out of their orbits. And the Pentagon’s classified networks grind to a halt, blinding the greatest military power in the world.
This might sound like a takeoff on the 2007 Bruce Willis “Die Hard” movie, in which a group of cyberterrorists attempts to stage what it calls a “fire sale”: a systematic shutdown of the nation’s vital communication and utilities infrastructure. According to the former counterterrorism czar Richard A. Clarke, however, it’s a scenario that could happen in real life — and it could all go down in 15 minutes. While the United States has a first-rate cyberoffense capacity, he says, its lack of a credible defense system, combined with the country’s heavy reliance on technology, makes it highly susceptible to a devastating cyberattack.