Countdown to Zero Day: Stuxnet and the Launch of the World’s First Digital Weapon – Kim Zetter

In this blog I have always tried to be upfront about all the circumstances that may be affecting my reading. It’s just good policy. Even if this were your job, I doubt people write good reviews if they read the book during their divorce. There are always situations to consider. With the case of Countdown to Zero Day, the specific set of circumstances is a bit of a weird one: the story is too damn famous!

Countdown to Zero Day recounts the events that led to the discovery of the Stuxnet computer worm which severely crippled the Iranian nuclear program at Natanz. I have heard it referred to as the first real event of cyber warfare. While the events of the story may not be terribly well known to a lay audience, it has been a star episode of every damn cyber-security / internet narrative podcast in existence. This story is the village bicycle of that subgenre, and everyone has not only had a ride, but they have had that ride on Kim Zetter’s work.

To be fair, most of the podcast cite this exact book as their source, loudly and proudly. I can see why. This book is a testimony to meticulousness. Zetter gives you every detail imaginable, and answers every question that can feasibly be answered. This is the vice and the virtue of the book – it felt like it went on far too long with some of this, and a lot of times a voice in my head was complaining that I already knew all this. But there was also the recognition that I knew all this because I had effectively consumed the book in a different form. If this were a movie it would make sense to say that it was spoiled for me. It feels weird to be describing non-fiction with that language.

My experience likely isn’t all that unique. If you don’t know anything about Stuxnet, this book is truly excellent. It’s a standup piece of journalism, it is about as thorough as you can imagine, and it is well written enough to keep you going. The fact that I kept going on with the book, despite feeling like I already knew the story that was being told, is probably endorsement enough. If the circumstances were like this with anything else, I would likely have put it down.

Frankly, I have no idea. And I am happy this way.

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