The threat of cyber attacks

The dynamics of cyber conflict between rival antagonists, 2001–11

From Journal of Peace Research

In 2011, the United States government declared a cyber attack similar to an act of war, punishable with conventional military means as a form of last resort. Cyber engagements directed by one state against another are now considered part of the normal relations range of combat and conflict. The goal of this research is to examine these processes, determine which rival states have been using cyber tactics and where these attacks are directed, and gather information about the severity of the conflicts. This research collected information on cyber interactions between rival states in the last decade, it provides a dataset of cyber incidents and cyber disputes that spans from 2001 to 2011. There is little doubt that cyber incidents and disputes will increase in the future and will demonstrate a real national security threat to the state. The question posed in this paper asks how serious the threat is. Is it something that should be used to promote a reorientation of security strategies?

 

Abstract

Much discussion of the concept of cyberwar, cyber conflict, and the changing dynamic of future security interactions is founded upon the study of what could be, conjured through spectacular flights of the imagination. The goal of this research article is to exhaustively collect information on cyber interactions between rival states in the last decade so that we can delineate the patterns of cyber conflict as reflected by evidence at the international level. The field of cyber security needs a clear return to social science in order to be able to definitively engage the cyber debate with facts, figures, and theory. To that end we provide a dataset of cyber incidents and cyber disputes that spans from 2001 to 2011. Our data include 110 cyber incidents and 45 cyber disputes. Further, we test our theory of cyber conflict which argues that restraint and regionalism should be expected, counter-intuitive to conventional wisdom. We find here that the actual magnitude and pace of cyber disputes among rivals does not match with popular perception; 20 of 126 active rivals engaged in cyber conflict. The interactions that are uncovered are limited in terms of magnitude and frequency suggesting cyber restraint. Further, most of the cyber disputes that are uncovered are regional in tone, defying the unbounded nature of cyberpower. The coming era of cyber conflict may continue to exhibit these patterns despite fears mentioned in the discourse by the media and cyber security professionals.

 

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Article details
Brandon Valeriano and Ryan C Maness
The dynamics of cyber conflict between rival antagonists, 2001–11 Journal of Peace Research 0022343313518940, first published on April 1, 2014 doi:10.1177/0022343313518940

 

 

     
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