Threat Management, Endpoint/Device Security

Book Review: Daniel Suarez’s Kill Decision


In his new book, Kill Decision, Daniel Suarez focuses exclusively on one technology used in his previous books Daemon and to a larger extent, Freedom (TM): autonomous or semi-autonomous machines. Kill Decision is a technological (or “cyber”) thriller which pits a CIA consultant and an academic researcher against the political and military war machine. It’s a fun ride and as a reader of Dan’s previous books, I looked forward to his deft weaving of action, psychology, socio-politics, hacking and science which I found in Daemon and to a greater extent Freedom(TM). Kill Decision is a great book and fulfills those expectations while providing even greater insight into the War Machine rabbithole which we’ve recently found ourselves being led (or perhaps leading ourselves?) into since 9/11.
Kill Decision explores the motivations behind the cyber arms race which is taking place around us by placing the reader in the middle of a fictional autonomous drone rollout. Dan does a good job of exploring the various motivations and excuses for the escalating use of infosec or “cyber” warfare. We hear from the proponent: “if we don’t build it, someone else will” to the opposing viewpoint: “Just because we *can*, doesn’t mean we *should*”. In a recent interview, Dan has noted that the use of autonomous drones is a natural manifestation of the supposed state sponsored malware we’ve seen with Stuxnet and Flame. In that interview, Dan indicates that autonomous drones are “the kinetic cousin of cyberwarfare, in that they are both radically new, low-cost, low-risk methods of waging conflict”. Dan further states “The age of ‘anonymous war’ is upon us – it will be nearly impossible to determine who’s attacking you…Anonymity could nullify an adversary’s superior firepower, since they won’t know whom to target in retaliation”. Drone warfare is in essence, an equalizer in armed conflict, and while Kill Decision, as a novel, presents the reader with characters to vilify, one is left to ponder the complications of identifying responsible parties when off-the-shelf warfare is within reach of anyone willing to cull the parts together.
As in his previous books, Kill Decision provides some scenes of hacking, trojans, and malware, but these are seen as tools, nothing more. Meanwhile the technology behind drones is explored rather heavily and is sure to inspire its fair share of hardware hacking projects.
Towards the end of the book, one of the main characters, Odin, presents us with a pragmatic middle ground concerning the use of bleeding edge technology in military applications. He understands the inevitability of drone warfare, but seeks to alter the trajectory towards an implementation that is transparently discussed and vetted publicly, not secretly. I suspect Odin is channeling one of Dan’s motivations for writing this book, namely to give the reader a warning that drone warfare technology is here, and is a topic that deserves our attention before its effects are ahead of our influence.
All in all, Dan gives the reader quite a few subjects to digest in a highly entertaining format, all compressed into just under 300 pages. Pick up a *copy of Dan’s book today and be sure to catch him on Episode 305 of Security Weekly at 6PM on Thursday October 11th!
*Support Dan by picking up a legal copy! :)

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