Book Review: Red Team by Micah Zenko

From: Council on Foreign Relations

by Adam Segal

As the details of the hacking of the U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM) became public in 2014 and 2015, the refrain from the press, Congress, and the general public was: how could this happen? How could hackers, probably from China, have stolen what one former official called, “crown jewels material … a gold mine for a foreign intelligence service”—the personal data of 18 million individuals, including the sensitive information on federal employees? After reading Red Team: How to Succeed by Thinking Like the Enemy, the excellent new book by my colleague Micah Zenko, you are likely to ask, why doesn’t it happen more often, and is there anything to be done to make sure it does not happen again?

There were, of course, large problems with cybersecurity at OPM. The agency did not have a professional information technology security staff until 2013, mechanisms to detect intrusions, or deploy two-factor authentication and encryption. The Inspector General warned Congress of “persistent deficiencies in OPM’s information system security program,” including “incomplete security authorization packages, weaknesses in testing of information security controls, and inaccurate plans of action and milestones.”

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