The Art of Cyberwarfare: An Investigator's Guide to Espionage, Ransomware, and Organized Cybercrime, by Jon DiMaggio comes at a time in American History when everyone ranging from business owners to private citizens can no longer turn a blind eye to the need for cybersecurity. Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, many businesses have moved to entirely remote or hybrid work and are now facing additional challenges from outside a traditional office environment. DiMaggio effectively captivates his audience to help them understand the major players in the ongoing cyberwar, the different methods attackers use, as well as how experts analyze attacks. 

Summary

Divided into two parts, the novel begins with the history and overview of cyberattacks and explores the geopolitical context in which these attacks occurred, as well as patterns discovered in attacker’s methods, and the supporting evidence analysts deemed responsible. DiMaggio found inspiration in the fact that there are very few, if any, books that “taught analysts how to track and attribute nation-state and advanced, organized cybercrime correctly.” Readers will be captivated learning about the process of billions of dollars stolen after a series of cyberattacks conducted by North Korea against financial institutions, how ransomware attacks have been used to leverage nation-state methods to bankrupt entire corporations, and cyberattacks seen in the digital that have been designed to disrupt or influence national elections on a global scale.

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In the second part of the book, Dimaggio details how defenses are able to track and assign future attacks. DiMaggio also provides the reader with techniques, tools, and the direction necessary for researching and dissecting the stages of attack campaigns. A demonstration of real techniques DiMaggio used to discover information concerning the 2021 Colonial Pipeline attacks, as well as other known advanced threats, DiMaggio offers his expertise as a chief security strategist at Analyst1 and over 15 years of experience hunting, researching, and writing about advanced cyber threats to educate the next generation.

DiMaggio notes that he expects both criminals and cyber spies will receive the most significant impact as the content is intended to educate security analysts and researchers though there is also something for the average reader to enjoy. Part one caters more to those with an interest in espionage and DiMaggio’s experience “chasing bad guys.” While the second half is meant as a resource for professionals looking to learn how to approach and investigate advanced persistent threats, which are different from the day-to-day threats usually seen. 

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Cyberwarfare Seen Today

Businesses are finally beginning to understand the importance of implementing cybersecurity systems, especially with the ongoing crisis between Ukraine and Russia. The possibility of cyberwarfare intensifying is imminent and DiMaggio expects the future of the digital landscape will continue to face hardship, saying, “...unfortunately, the threats we face today are becoming more advanced and dangerous to both government and private sector organizations. Adversaries continue to learn from mistakes and grow from their success. As defenders, we need to as well. The landscape is ever-changing, and we can no longer rely simply on automated defenses to protect us. Advanced threats often involve human on-keyboard attackers who penetrate and access our most secure networks.”

About mid-way into the handbook, DiMaggio brings up the concept of ‘Hacktivism’ specifically referencing the group Anonymous, famous for their various cyberattacks against several governments, government institutions, and government agencies, corporations, and the Church of Scientology. The group is popular among younger generations, who push the agenda of holding those in power accountable in efforts to better society. With the best of intentions in mind, it is still difficult to gauge whether this type of activism is inherently immoral or not. On the subject, DiMaggio feels that “people, such as hacktivists, can do both good and bad with their skills and resources in the cyber world. Some choose to defend against or chase evil, while others use it to steal from or hurt others. It comes down to the intent of the individuals behind the cause and the operations they conduct… Unfortunately, the small percentage who do not can cause a lot of damage. Time will tell, but one thing is for sure, the lure of hacking and joining collective hacking operations is appealing.”

The Bottom Line

The Art of Cyberwarfare: An Investigator's Guide to Espionage, Ransomware, and Organized Cybercrime encompasses useful knowledge from the past and modern advanced threats seen today. Regardless of your expertise level, this book is an insightful read whether you’re a member of a Security Operations Center team or an individual researcher. What separates The Art of Cyberwarfare from other novels on the subject are a drive for budding young professionals to have an expert resource leading them forward.

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