Mousetrap: The Impossible Paradox of Cyberwar vs. Cyber Defense

This section of the reading was all about cybersecurity and where we can go from here. The authors have now outlined all the problems governments and individuals have with cybersecurity and cyberwarfare. But now they attempt to come to a conclusion as to how governments can react to the cyber threats that face us today.

They conclude that shutting down the internet and starting over is impossible, because the internet is not a law that can be “repealed” (Not the only thing that can’t be repealed @GOP Obamacare for life!!). There is also the discussion of gathering nations together to come up with some form of international regulations or to at least establish international cooperation. The problem with this is essentially realism– the larger states that hold the complex power and technology do not want to relinquish it to the smaller states. This goes back to the idea that there are weak players and strong players, and while there are advantages to being a weak player, the strong players still have more choices, and thus more advantages.

It has also been very difficult for the government to place barriers as far as cybersecurity, because where an initiative can protect one party, it hurts another. In other cases, it is hard for Americans to compromise their privacy in return for safety. The issue is that rather than there just being shades of grey in this issue, there are ONLY shades of grey, and no black or white. The good and the bad blend together, disguising both helpful and hurtful entities. It has been very difficult and costly to ensure cybersecurity, which is most of the time not ensured or even vaguely doable. It was interesting to read the McColo case and the Visa case to see that change is possible if the right actors are involved.

When I read this, I immediately thought of the 2016 election, which was marked by cybersecurity breaches, whether it be WIkiLeaks or the DNC. It is interesting to see how competing actors can hurt each other via cyberwarfare, and how the big guy (the US government and the DNC) can be breached, while it takes months and years to learn how and by whom (we all know, but there’s no real way to punish people because there are no methods in place by which to assert power and order over cybersecurity.

Here is a link to a Buzzfeed article about Russia’s cyberwarfare game (I know, Buzzfeed, but it’s an easy read) and how Russia has been able to supplement its military strength with cyber capability:

The New Handbook for Cyberwar is Being Written by Russia

That’s all for now.






4 thoughts on “Mousetrap: The Impossible Paradox of Cyberwar vs. Cyber Defense

  1. Kira, I liked your discussion on how you can’t just shut down the internet, that it isn’t something that can be made new again or start fresh. I think this is a pretty nuanced paradox- because what else can you not shut down? Even nuclear weapons, you can impose heavy restrictions that make it impossible to delineate from the norms. But since the internet is for everyone, and everyone has about the same power and access to it, it makes it much harder to control and therefore impose norms.


  2. Hi Kira,

    Very good point. The internet cannot simply be shut down and reset. To this point, however, I wonder whether a departure from net neutrality would help or hinder in cyber security. Ajit Pai, appointed by Trump as the chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, is opposed to net neutrality and the current administration is set on repealing legislation protecting net neutrality. Though I am not yet sure of its effect, I believe this could have an interesting effect on how the United States handles domestic cyber security threats.


  3. I liked how you discuss how the internet isn’t something you could even shut down (Lol imagine trying to repeal the internet). I like how you connect the emergence of new cyber norms with realism, as you are right, the bigger states make the rules without the small states since they have stronger cyber infrastructure. By the time it takes to figure out the rules and regulations, cyber space will evolve even more. Will we ever be able to keep up on internet norms if we can’t even create them in the first place since the internet is for everyone. The internet has posed a new kind of threat, one that is still showing its complexities.


  4. Hey Kira! I think that your use of the black and white analogy is especially helpful for someone trying to frame this whole cyber-security madness. Cyber-security really does almost lie completely in a grey zone at the moment and it seems that little progress has been made in attempting to change it to something where there is clearly black and white. Your point about realist interests and stronger states trying to keep the technological edge is also fascinating. It makes me wonder if there even is a real solution to this craziness.

    – Vlad


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