Kompromat: How Russia Undermined American Democracy

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Despite its title, Kompromat is more about Russia’s transition from Cold-War spycraft to cyber-war sabotage centered on digital propaganda, hacking, and trolling rather than the Kremlin’s well-known practice of using kompromat to blackmail its targets. But the book also stands as a strong argument that the ongoing cyber war is a much more significant and urgent issue than kompromat. Jeff Pegues is a journalist who has done fairly wide-ranging (consequently somewhat lacking in depth) research into Russia’s digital campaign against the US by interviewing various intelligence, computing, Russian relations, and hacking experts.

By the end, the book makes a persuasive argument that we’re at war with Russia and that they’ve set the terms and the battleground–and they’re winning by a huge margin. As one intelligence expert explains, Russia is leading “a huge campaign to destabilize the United States and our allies.” Even more bleakly, another intelligence expert explains that “this is essentially a war without firing a shot. This is an adversary that has attempted to implant a cancerous tumor inside of our country and is helping it metastasize to kill the body.”

Pegues explores the Putin-backed hackers and troll farms that exist purely to disrupt America’s national conversations and its faith in its most prized institution–free democratic elections. The book has a somewhat haphazard feel to its organization and at times the information, though solid, isn’t well synthesized–many chapter sections include directly transcribed conversations rather than an integrated synthesis of the information from those conversations. Though the organization is a bit uneven, the information and its implications are a desperately important contribution to America’s growing realization of its own vast–and increasingly exploited–vulnerabilities.

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Star Count 4/5
Format Hard
Page Count 287 pages
Publisher Prometheus Books
Publish Date 2018-Jul-10
ISBN 9781633884298
Bookshop.org Buy this Book
Issue October 2018
Category Current Events & Politics


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