Last week, Henry Farrell reviewed the new book, Hacked World Order, by Adam Segal. Farrell calls it “by far the best” book written on cybersecurity in recent years.
Farrell argues that one of the reasons Segal’s book is so successful is its avoidance of the common pitfalls related to cybersecurity debates:
“There are two big reasons why cybersecurity debates are terrible: cybersecurity is highly technical across multiple dimensions, but it is also a topic that inspires high passions. The first problem means that different kinds of expertise—computer science, legal reasoning, strategic thinking, civil liberties activism—regularly collide with each other, and the crashes can be ugly. The second leads to clashes over ethical positions. There are few more politically charged questions than the conflict between national security and civil liberties, and cybersecurity remakes this conflict in new and complicated ways. The result is that few people understand cybersecurity comprehensively (most understand one or two dimensions better than the others), but many people have strong opinions. This leads to vexing and fruitless debates, where prominent pundits are able to get away with technically illiterate and excitable nonsense.”
Farrell concludes his review with a note about how the book is likely to inspire disagreements, particularly related to the challenge of balancing civil liberty with national security:
“Segal does not have grand solutions for these problems. Instead, he offers proposals that might mitigate them in a world where states still clash, where it is increasingly more difficult to identify where national politics stops and international politics begins, and where US influence is likely gradually waning. People from different perspectives are likely to find the solutions he offers unambitious. I too am doubtful that the US can do much to reassure other democracies about surveillance without a fundamental rethinking of how to make civil liberties as interdependent as the flows of data that implicate them. I imagine that other people, who might disagree starkly with me on civil liberties questions, might be skeptical from the contrary perspective. But they, like me, will have to grapple with the fractured policy realm that Segal depicts, one where actions taken to reassure domestic constituencies can have negative international repercussions and vice versa, and where conflicting priorities of security, civil liberties and technology have become so entangled as to become very nearly inseparable.”