While I am absolutely grouping my reading in a mad rush to finish my reviews, I would have grouped these two regardless as they are forever intertwined in my mind. In fact, Countdown to Zero Day is reference in Sandworm and it is why I read it.
I got excited about Sandworm last year and waited more than six months for it at my library. I’ve read a fair amount about the general topic and I am fascinated by it. Sandworm is about the Russian hacker group that attempted to influence the 2016 Presidential election, though that is is nowhere near the most impactful attack they have launched. Beginning in 2014, the world started experiencing cyber attacks that led to real world, tangible results. That is to say things far worse than email malware that deletes information from a computer. You might remember the ILOVEYOU or Love Bug virus from 2000 (that seemed way more recent than TWENTY years ago!). Sandworm conducts attacks that impact the real world- shutting off power grids, halting transportation hubs, preventing container ships from unloading. Sandworm has been tied to the Russian invasion of Ukraine in 2014. They created large scale blackouts that prevented Ukrainian units form communicating and allowing the Russians to possesses an enormous tactical advantage. The name Sandworm comes from lines in the code that were essentially signatures and were references to the sandworms from the novel Dune.
Countdown to Zero Day is specifically about Stuxnet and how it was the cyberwar version of dropping an atomic bomb. It was the first known attack of its kind by what is believed to be a state against another state. The states in question here are the U.S. and Israel conducting the attack against Iran, though none of the nations have claimed responsibility nor has Iran openly admitted it occurred. Countdown is about the discovery of the weapon, discussion of how it was built and what, precisely it did. The book has been criticized as a long-form magazine article but I loved it and the additional detail it provided. Sandworm, the book, addresses the history of cyberwar and cites Countdown in its discussion of Stuxnet. Both books are EXCELLENT and I highly recommend them if you have any interest at all in national security, cyber warfare, hacking, or technology.