Book Review: “The Cyber Conundrum”

Cybersecurity Canon Candidate Book Review: “The Cyber Conundrum: How Do We Fix Cybersecurity?” by Peter K. Chronis (published February 9, 2018)

Book reviewed by: M. K. Palmore, Field CSO (Americas), Palo Alto Networks

Bottom Line: I don’t recommend this book for the Cybersecurity Canon Hall of Fame. 

Review:

Fixing the cybersecurity problem is a difficult topic to cover and may very well be the challenge of our modern lives. As we all watch this fast-moving train called “digital innovation” explode and expand our daily existence, the challenge of securing our connections and protecting our data has become paramount. Every year, we witness continued successful attempts by cyber adversaries to encroach on our digital boundaries. 

Part of the difficulty in covering this subject comes from how computers, networked devices, mobile devices and their apps have completely taken over our existence. These devices and the data they contain are quickly becoming "The Cyber Conundrum: How Do We Fix Cybersecurity?" by Peter K. Chronisthe cornerstone of our lives. Our personal and professional interactions are both captured and facilitated by these devices and the thousands of applications that have become the core basis of the human experience for many people around the world. The author of “The Cyber Conundrum,” Peter Chronis, does a great job of exploring the complexities of this current state of play, writing about nearly every aspect of this complex and developing relationship. His descriptions are largely academic, but maybe that is a requirement of the times. Few have the kind of direct knowledge of the complexities that would be necessary to really drive the call to arms he’s subtly advocating.

In the second phase of the book, Chronis describes or provides examples of previous moonshots, which include the actual successful attempt by the United States to put a man on the moon. After providing this formula, Chronis lets the reader down lightly by describing how the various critical elements of the public and private sector would be called to collaborate on an effective solution for cybersecurity. This solution is never described in detail, but Chronis leaves the reader believing it’s not possible for these various elements to actually achieve the desired result. 

I enjoyed reading this book. As someone who has seen the cyber threat landscape up close, I think Chronis aptly describes the problem. Seasoned cybersecurity professionals will be familiar with the elements “The Cyber Conundrum” lays out in its overview of how to change the cybersecurity landscape. However, while Chronis covers the variables, he does not appear to really close the circle of his lofty description of the potential moonshot goal. Chronis makes an admirable attempt, but in the end, the book seems rushed and fails to offer a clear path to success. When the book ended, I needed more. Maybe Chronis will deliver this in a second offering?

We modeled the Cybersecurity Canon after the Baseball or Rock & Roll Hall-of-Fame, except for cybersecurity books. We have more than 25 books on the initial candidate list, but we are soliciting help from the cybersecurity community to increase the number to be much more than that. Please write a review and nominate your favorite. 

The Cybersecurity Canon is a real thing for our community. We have designed it so that you can directly participate in the process. Please do so!