The incredible untold origin story of cyberwar and the hackers who unleashed it on the world, tracing their journey from the ashes of the Cold War to the criminal underworld, governments, and even Silicon Valley–while the Pandora's Box they opened changed the world forever.
Two years before 9/11, the United States was attacked by an unknown enemy. No advance warning was given, and it didn't target civilians. Instead, tomahawk missiles started missing their targets, US agents were swept up by hostile governments, and America’s enemies seemed to know its every move in advance. The confusion was such that a note on the Pentagon’s distress call read simply, “This shouldn’t be happening.” A new phase of warfare—cyberwar—had arrived. And within two decades it escaped Pandora's Box, plunging us into a state of total war where every day, countless cyber attacks perpetrated by states and mercenaries are reshaping the world.
After receiving an anonymous email with secret NATO battle plans, journalist Matt Potter embarked on a twenty-year investigation into the origins of cyberwar and how it came to dominate the world. He uncovered its beginnings – worthy of a Bond movie – in the last days of the Cold War, as the US and its allies empowered a generation of Eastern European hackers, only to abandon them when the Berlin Wall fell, waking up less than a decade later in a new world order. It's a story winds through Balkan hacking culture, Russia, Silicon Valley, and the Pentagon, introducing us to characters like a celebrity hacker with missing fingers who has escaped prison 27 times, FBI agents chasing the first generation of cyber mercenaries in the 90s, and Russian generals obsessed with a Cold War rematch. Never before told, this is the riveting secret history of cyberwar not as governments want it to be – controlled, military-directed, discreet, and sophisticated – but as it really is: anarchic, chaotic, dangerous, and often thrilling.