World peace is something the world has never had if we’re honest. But as of late things seem to be hotting up a little bit. We’re no longer at a place in time where we can safely travel the world without running into danger, and we’re definitely not at a place where we can stay worry free about the future of the world. There’s so much going on in terms of terrorism, wars, and conflicts that are very close to boiling point. So the question that is constantly on people’s minds is whether we’re a war away from finding peace, or even whether a war would equal any peace at all. This is what we’re going to explore today, so have a read on and see what you think by the end.
Terrorism is so scary, and so real at the minute. Ever since the 9/11 bombings and the rise of the Islamic state group ISIS, we’re living in constant fear of an imminent attack on major countries such as the US and the UK. But it isn’t just those big countries that are being affected, all over the world smaller terrorist attacks are happening. One by one secret forces and the military are trying to break down the group right from its very core. But the thing that is holding them back is radicalisation. Thousands of people are being radicalised, meaning the group is growing at an alarming rate. So is there a way to stop them? At the minute it doesn’t look like there is, and with this war there seems to be no end. So the worrying fact here is this, no, with terrorism a war wouldn’t bring peace. Only mass killings, damaged countries, and even more fear of an impending attack.
What’s Being Done?
There is plenty being done, both good and bad, by countries all over the world to try and stop what we’re dealing with today. For example, there are smaller non-profit organisations trying to promote democracy throughout different countries. They’re funded by something called the National Endowment for Democracy. It is this funding that is giving countries hope around the world. There’s also things being done on a large scale by the government. Acts of peace and talks of peace are constantly being discussed, but it just seems like every time they do, something happens to put countries at loggerheads again!
USA, Russia & North Korea
This is something the whole world is feeling the effects and fear of. The media definitely doesn’t help the situation, but it’s still something that we should all be thinking about. The feud between the USA and Korea in particular is one that has been intensifying massively over the last year. With North Korea doing a missile test every other week, and the USA threatening to take action, a lot of us can only wonder how long it is going to be before a war breaks out, especially with Trump in control and his anger towards their actions. Again, in this case a war could be deadly. Both countries are armed with powerful nuclear missiles, and both countries definitely don’t seem afraid to lose them. All we can hope here is that democracy will take over, and some form of order will come into play sooner rather than later.
Attribution and the problem of retaliation in cyberspace
If a country is hit with a computer program and there is destruction/death involved, there is usually retaliation, a counter attack and an appropriate response. An opposing side is given a chance to respond to the enemy by means it deems necessary, especially if there is a lot of damage involved. In terms of conventional weapons it is clear who attached the target, yet cyberspace is another niche with its challenges.
Attribution in cyberspace has been a question for a long time. Although terrorist attacks attribution is somewhat difficult, cyberspace introduces a more complicated process. Anonymity is a challenge as perpetrators may easily hide their identities. Moreover, an attack can be launched from a number of computers, operated by different people and placed in different places across the world. According to Clarck and Landau, challenge lies in several dimensions: 1) identify a computer from which the attack was launched; 2) identify a person, who had been operating the computer at the time of the attack; 3) identify a main actor, who gave an order and/or an actor behind the attack (2010).
According to the technology consultant at the security company Sophos, perpetrators in cyber may use compromised computers that belong to unsuspecting innocent people to break in someone’s computer. A hack may be coming from China, but it may be under control of someone who is situated in another country. This was the case with the DDoS cyberattacks that happened in Estonia 2007 (it involved more than 80, 000 hijacked computers from around 178 countries). Moreover, even if an attacker is supposedly found, it is easy to blame it on a third party, saying that a computer has been hacked. This, consequently, gives rise to a plausible deniability.
Although technology is being developed in order to analyze and solve the problem of attribution, it is still a challenge because of the basic design of the Internet. In theory, nonetheless, it is possible to solve the problem. According to Feaver, in the future the language of computer networks will be replaced by the Internet Protocol version 6 (IPv6), which will raise the amount of computer addresses from four billion to an infinite number. That means that everything and everyone could be associated with a unique number. IPv6 may additionally support Internet Protocol Security for authentication of the Internet traffic (Ibid.).
However, at this point of time technological analysis should always be accompanied by intelligence and information analysis. This helps to identify attackers, understand more about capabilities and intentions, and whether the attack was sanctioned by the government. Strategic and political considerations will be essential too.
A damaging cyberattack may easily lead to escalation of the situation, which is another implication for a balance in international relations. In case of Stuxnet, a malware that affected a nuclear facility in Iran, if it achieved its believed goal to disrupt a nuclear infrastructure, it could have brought a high-level of destruction with many people dead. In this case, Iran would have probably retaliated with kinetic means, rather when relying on unreliable cyberattacks (unless they had the technology). However, as attribution was still lacking, it is not clear whether they would opt for this option.
Thus, attribution poses certain problems when it comes to the question of retaliation. When it is not clear who attacked, it is hard to prosecute or retaliate in response. Attribution also created additional challenges in decision-making, considering the speed of a cyberattack. Even if attribution is positive, it is still hard to understand what procedures are to be followed. If there are no casualties and no physical destruction, it is easier to opt for sanctions rather than a military retaliation. Moreover, if attribution is later established to be incorrect, there may be serious consequences.
On another note, the use of cyberattacks may have further complications, if the countries involved are nuclear. In case of major destructive consequences after a cyberattack, a country would be left with a choice whether to retaliate in kind or to employ conventional weapons, especially if they do not have a cyber capability.
What happens when an attacker is not identified but consequences are drastic? More importantly, if it is “believed” to be identified (yet without certainty), will a country retaliate? These questions are still yet to be answered, as there has been no precedent on such a scale. What is clear, cyberattacks present additional challenges in global security that should be undoubtedly addressed.
 Cluley, G. (2011). China denies hacking high-tech weapon maker. Naked security by Sophos, [online] Available at: https://nakedsecurity.sophos.com/2011/09/20/china-denies-hacking-high-tech-weapon-make/ [Accessed on 3.02.2018].
A new cyber arms race
Not long time ago cyber threats were not even on agenda in security, let along national security landscape. Now, the situation is different. Now, everyone recognizes the risks of hyper-connected world: from an individual in front of the computer to a high-level officer, operating a nuclear facility. As new tools are being developed, cyber-security occupies an important niche in decision-making and planning. As more and more people are securing their laptops, tablets, phones; the military started doing that too.
Just six years ago the US Defence Secretary warned about a possible Cyber Pearl Harbour. Cyber Pearl Harbour is a strategic surprise attack which could potentially incapacitate computational and communication capabilities, leading to a devastating impact on the country (Goldman and Arquilla, 2014, p. 13). This notion is usually fuelled by ongoing media reports that countries are in active pursuit of offensive cyber capabilities which could jeopardize any sector, penetrate any system and cause major disruptions. Regardless of the accuracy of these reports, every country understands that these cyber insecurities can be and, probably, will be exploited by an enemy. That is why many states are now allocating enormous amount of resources to develop defensive cyber means along with the offensive capabilities.
The number of cyberattacks is increasing. One can argue about its future potential targets, but it is clear that we should assume that cyberattacks will become only more sophisticated and, possibly, more deadly in the future. That is why vulnerabilities should be addressed, and the nations should be prepared to the cyber challenge.
Along the most well-known cyberattacks happened in Estonia (2007), Syria (impacted air defence systems 2007), Georgia (2008), Iran (Stuxnet 2009-10), The Saudi Arabia (Aramco 2012), Ukraine (2014), U.S. (electoral campaign 2016). Additionally, the world was quite agitated about WannaCry and Petya attacks in 2017. All in all, most of the recent attacks targeted commercial sectors, showing that there might be a constraining norm in regards to military sector and critical infrastructures.
This consequently might indicate that states might be pursuing more sophisticated technologies in order to target more sophisticated systems. It might as well suggest a possibility of on-going cyber arms races between the countries. However, there are clear limitations of cyber warfare, as no physical damage occurred and no people were killed. Even the damage inflicted on critical infrastructures was limited and failed to cause major consequences. However, financial losses as a result of cyberattacks can be rather substantial and might have a great impact on economically weaker states.
Based on the scale of current attacks, we can only assume that the technology will spread and get more sophisticated with the time. As Mazanec has outlined, cyber warfare capabilities will play a role in future military conflicts, as they are being integrated into military and state doctrines (2015, pp. 80-83). However, despite cyber challenges to national security, it does not necessarily reflect that deterrence methods and tactics will be applicable to cyberspace.
This technology is quite cheap, requires less resources and personnel, and therefore allows less economically advanced countries developing cyber. As a result, there is a clear asymmetry with weaker states competing with the world powers. Consequently, the threat is multiplied internationally. So the states are now in an unprecedented situation, because of the high level of uncertainty that cyberspace poses. This compels the states to adapt to the fast changing environment in international relations.
According to the report of McAfee, a global security technology company, 57% believe that cyber arms race is taking place now. The top officials in the West are convinced too. For example, NATO secretary general Stoltenberg said that cyber would become integral to any military conflict. Following this, NATO Defence Ministers have agreed that cyber will be a part of military planning and operations. It is clear that the West is fully aware of cyber developments and eager to use it in its actions.
Similarly, the Chinese Military Strategy of 2015 has also admitted that cyberspace will take a place in strategic competition among all parties. The Indian Army is also not falling behind and strengthening its cyber arsenal. General Rawat has recently said that India is now more concerned about developing these cyber capabilities than fighting on the border. The chain-reaction follows as in the case of the Cold War in pursuing the technologies and keeping up-to-date with the others states.
In this situation a leader faces similar challenges as in proliferation of any other military technology. There are four possible scenarios that make it difficult to calculate probabilities (According to Goldman and Arquilla, 2014):
1) We develop a cyber capability – They develop a cyber capability;
This is a frequent scenario and occurs when both countries have technological capability to develop cyber means.
2) We develop a cyber capability – They don’t develop a cyber capability;
There are certain problems in verifying if a country really lacks a capability to pursue cyber weapons. However, this case gives obvious advantage and leverage to a state that develops cyber capability.
3) We don’t develop a cyber capability – They develop a cyber capability;
From a political and strategic point of view, it puts a state into a disadvantageous position, therefore, making it undesired.
4) We don’t develop a cyber capability – They don’t develop a cyber capability;
It is more desirable; however, no direct experience exists. Usually if there is a possibility that a technology can be developed, it will be developed at least by some state.
Interestingly enough, there is not much concrete information available in regards to these developments, whether it is amount of arsenal, types of cyber capability, or just simple information on the notions. Information which is accessible is usually written by the Western authors (it is particularly covered by US officials/military and academia) or can be found in government’s documents. NATO common strategy, perhaps, contributes towards it. On a broader scale, cyber is treated as a state secret and specific information is classified. There is much information which is not available (for example, development of cyber weapons, its employment, reasons for its employment, legality of the use of cyber weapons etc.). In some countries, there is nothing to find at all.
The good example is cyber capabilities of Russia. There is no available information: no official statements, no official policy, no academic articles published, it goes to the extent that even media is not engaged in these issues. Alexei Arbatov (2018), an internationally recognized scholar on global security, has recently confirmed that even academic debate in Russia does not officially exist, only at the university level or informal. Notwithstanding, the Military Doctrine of the Russian Federation recognizes the fact that military threats and dangers are now shifting towards cyberspace (“informatsionnoe prostranstvo”).
Similarly to Russia, China also maintains secrecy concerning its developments in the military. According to the report of the Institute for Security Technology Studies (2004), available sources insist that Beijing is pursuing cyber warfare programs, but classified nature of specifics aggravates assessments.
This secrecy around cyber resembles the secrecy surrounding nuclear developments. All of this information was classified too, yet the principles of nuclear governance have managed to emerge even in the tight environment of the Cold War. Similar situation arose in regards to the use of drones. All the initial strikes of drones were classified, and only with time the debate started to evolve. At the moment it is quite vigorous.
As for cyber, it will certainly take time to talk freely about cyber capabilities and warfare. It will be different in different countries, but in the end the debate will open up as well as new technologies will come and cyber would have become a history.
Arbatov, A. (2018). Stability in a state of flux. Opinion presented at the 31st ISODARCO Winter Course – The Evolving Nuclear Order: New Technology and Nuclear Risk, 7-14 January 2018, Andalo.
Billo, Ch. and Chang, W. (2004). Cyber Warfare, an Analysis of the Means and Motivations of selected Nation States. Institute for Security Technology Studies, [online] Available at http://www.ists.dartmouth.edu/docs/cyberwarfare.pdf [Accessed on 27.12.2017].
Goldman, E. and Arquilla, J., ed. (2014). Cyber Analogies. Monterey: Progressive Management.
Mazanek, B. (2015). Why International Order is not Inevitable. Strategic Studies Quarterly, 9 (2), pp. 78-98. [online] Available at: http://www.airuniversity.af.mil/Portals/10/SSQ/documents/Volume-09_Issue-2/mazanec.pdf [Accessed on 28.01.2018].
 U.S. Department of Defense (2012). Remarks by Secretary Panetta on Cybersecurity to the Business Executives for National Security, New York City, [online] Available at: http://archive.defense.gov/transcripts/transcript.aspx?transcriptid=5136 [Accessed on 22.01.2018].
 McAfee (2012). Cyber Defense Report. [online] Available at: https://www.mcafee.com/uk/about/news/2012/q1/20120130-02.aspx [Accessed on 22.01.2018].
 Hawser, A. (2017). NATO to Use Cyber Effects in Defensive Operations. Defense Procurement International, [online] Available at: https://www.defenceprocurementinternational.com/features/air/nato-and-cyber-weapons [Accessed on 22.01.2018].
 NATO (2017). NATO Defense Ministers agree to adopt command structure, boost Afghanistan troops levels. [online] Available at: https://www.nato.int/cps/ic/natohq/news_148722.htm?selectedLocale=en [Accessed on 22.01.2018].
 Gurung, Sh. (2018). Army stepping up cyber security. The Economic Times, [online] Available at: https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/defence/army-stepping-up-cyber-security/articleshow/62482582.cms [Accessed on 23.01.2018].
 Here it means both offensive and defensive capabilities (Author’s note).
 The Military Doctrine of the Russian Federation (edited in 2014). Moscow: p. 4. [online] Available at: http://www.mid.ru/documents/10180/822714/41d527556bec8deb3530.pdf/d899528d-4f07-4145-b565-1f9ac290906c [Accessed on 23.01.2018].
Technological change and new challenges in war
The notion of war has been changing for a long time due to technological advances. This subsequently has caused new arms races. Since the first military revolution in infantry and artillery during the Hundred Years’ War, many things have been indeed reshaped. New technologies consistently redefined the way wars are conducted and altered the notion of risk (both for combatants and civilians).
For a long time land and sea were the main domains for a war. As the technology further developed and a flight capability was introduced, air has become a new domain. That posed new risks and challenges that one could not overlook. To keep balancing on the battlefield one needed to adjust accordingly and develop its own air capability. Having only land troops and naval ships were suddenly not enough to prevail in these new circumstances. The military planning and strategy changed with it, shifting from the trench warfare during the World War I to a blitzkrieg and air raids during the World War II.
In the middle of 20th century nuclear weapons were invented which greatly impacted the warfare and the balance of international relations. The bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki showed more than just a massive destructive power that could obliterate millions in a blink of the eye. Years later demonstrated a real impact of a nuclear bomb and its long-lasting consequences as well as how poorly prepared were the infrastructures for a nuclear attack.
The advent of internet and its rapid development brought another military revolution, introducing computer-assisted battlefield and precision-guided munitions (PGM). More sophisticated weapons like missiles increased the distance between enemies, hence changing the risks involved and recalculating political strategy and tactics. Increased dependency on information technology resulted in new threats and opened new vulnerabilities of national security (Ohlin, Govern and Finkelstein, 2015, x-xiii).
Meanwhile, the amount of cyber threats and vulnerabilities are rapidly increasing. At the moment there are several tendencies for cyberattacks. First, it takes less time to launch a cyberattack as its speed of transmission is very high. Second, such attacks are becoming more frequent and have more serious impact on systems. Third, there are now different types of actors, capable of launching a cyberattack.
Estonia was the first to experience the effects of growing technological dependency in the history. In 2007 its government infrastructure, financial sector and media were targeted and attacked entirely in cyberspace. The country proved to be highly vulnerable and unable to give a timely response, yet after these attacks Estonia started a public discussion on the issues of cyber defense in security and pushed other countries to take these issues into consideration. In a way, it was a stimulus to raise awareness on increased vulnerabilities and cyber threats (See also Aaviksoo, 2010).
This new space has clearly its threats as any other physical domain. As online interconnectivity increases, cyber threats are increasing with them. All digital technologies that receive, transmit, and manage digital data can be potentially interfered through a cyberattack (Lewis and Unal, 2017). Cyber security expert Rod Beckstrom, who is a former Chief Executive Officer of ICANN, said: “Everything networked can be hacked. Everything is being networked, so everything is vulnerable”.
That was further proven by the Black Hat Briefings, the biggest computer security conferences in the world. These vulnerabilities can be easily exploited. Cyberattacks vary from data theft and financial fraud to data manipulation and manipulation of machine instructions. Furthermore, they can interfere with enemy sensors, communications, command-control systems, and weapon systems. In this sense, defending electronic infrastructure grows consistently as our dependence on information system grows.
Similarly to the development of nuclear weapons back to the 20th century, it is well-known that many countries are currently developing cyber capabilities and boosting research and investment in this area. This means that the arms race in cyberspace has already started. In 2007 there were 120 countries, already developed ways to use the internet to target different sectors (Ohlin, Govern, and Finkelstein, 2015, xii).
As much as the debate in regards to offensive cyber capacities is increasing its pace, two distinct patters are emerged in the way it is discussed. Some say that cyber can lower the threshold in war; others worry about its use in taking down critical infrastructures.
In the first optimistic case, military and states regard these capabilities capable of occupying a new niche in diplomatic tools. In 2014 Eric Rosenbach, an Assistant Secretary of Defense for Homeland Defense and Global Security at that time, has indeed referred cyber operations as helpful in reaching national goals. Specifically, he mentioned “the space between” diplomacy, economic sanctions and military action, meaning using cyber space to accomplish national interest. Cyberattacks can be used as an addition to military strikes or can become an alternative to direct kinetic confrontation, complimenting other tools used in politics. Thus, they can further lower the threshold of the use of force in a war.
In other case, however, it can possess as much destructive power as nuclear weapons, for example if it is targeted on power grids or critical infrastructures. Increased connectivity from consumer goods to critical infrastructure control systems poses great risks and vulnerabilities across the world (Weber, 2010). These vulnerabilities can be used as leverage or they can be used exploited instead of launching a missile, following a similar ultimate goal of taking down an adversary.
Traditionally, national and international security has been seen through a physical lens. Normally there is always a state that secures its land borders, sea boundaries, and protects airspace. In contrast, there is no equivalent to city police or a state army that protects its citizens in cyberspace. As professor of National Security Affairs Reveron summarizes, unlike other domains, the government does not have a natural role in cyberspace to promote security. In its turn cyber challenges the traditional framework of security.
Today people willingly share, transmit or store all sort of data through the internet. It is not surprising that a new strategy evolves by planting software into an electronic device to manipulate this data. For instance, by manipulating e-mails of nuclear power plant employees it is possible to acquire sensitive information and use it as a leverage tool. This shift in the notion of warfare merged military and corporate espionage functions. Militarization of cyberspace subsequently blurred legal and moral definitions of privacy rights. In the 21st century any individual may be targeted in the virtual world, depending on the information niche s/he is occupying. In result, the line between military and civil sectors is fading away.
All in all, cyber capabilities have indeed brought a new technological change and now re-shifting security, definitions and rules of war. International law, at the same time, has been slow in adjusting to a new evolving order and establishing an appropriate legal regime for cyberattacks. Moreover, this technological advance has coined a new term for the notion of war – a cyberwar. Ohlin, Govern, and Finkelstein suggest that this change brings not only new weapons to be employed, but transforms the entire notion of war (2015, xiii).
Lewis, P. and Unal, B. (2017). Cyber Threats and Nuclear Weapons System. In: Borrie, J., Caughley, T., and Wan, W., (Eds.), Understanding Nuclear Weapons Risks, 1st ed. Geneva: UNIDIR, pp. 61-72.
Ohlin, J.D., Govern, K. and Finkelstein, C., eds. (2015). Cyberwar Law and Ethics for Virtual Conlicts. New York: Oxford University Press.
Sulek, D. and Moran, N. (2009).What Analogies Can Tell Us About the Future of Cybersecurity. Cryptology and Information Security Series, 3, pp. 118-131.
Weber, R. (2010). Internet of Things: New Security and Privacy Challenges. Computer Law & Security Review, 26 (1), pp. 23-30.
 Flanagan, B. (2016). Hacked Asteroids Destroying Earth and Other Cybergeddon Scenarios. Knowledge Hub, [online] Available at: https://www.worldgovernmentsummit.org/knowledge-hub/hacked-asteroids-destroying-earth-and-other-cybergeddon-scenarios [Accessed 20.12.2017].
 Cyber Leaders: A Discussion with the Honorable Eric Rosenbach. (2014). Centre for Strategic & International Studies,
Available at: https://www.csis.org/events/cyber-leaders-discussion-honorable-eric-rosenbach [Accessed on 20.12.2017].
 Reveron, D. (2017). How Cyberspace is Transforming International Security. Faculty insight at Harvard Extension School, [online] Available at: https://www.extension.harvard.edu/inside-extension/how-cyberspace-transforming-international-security [Accessed 28/12/2017].
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