Go to content Go to navigation Go to search

Is Cyberwar really coming? · 2013-02-01 by mmzz

My reply to a LiberationTech thread on cyberwar

Cyberwar or netwar is “coming” since 1993 [1]…

But what kind of “war” are we expecting? What metaphor should we use to describe the increasing belligerency on the net?
Surely not a war fought by the military following a declaration according to formal protocols of the Hague Convention!

I think we could consider two different metaphors of the latent form of confrontation we are observing:

(1) the pirate-like war fought by the privateer, private person or company authorized by a government, making profit from prize money or bounties.
Off metaphor, the “Data Privateer” has the freedom to take advantage from data gathered in commerce raiding or “guerre de course” activities, being under explicit or implicit government immunity.
Can we find clues or evidence for this kind of entities? Think for instance of government agencies spying on their own citizens, sometimes acting in grey zones un-encoded by laws, and their contractors.

(2) Cyberwar as a vector of Data Colonialism. Considering the Cyberspace a “territory” is a mistake, but following Luciano Floridi “Infosphere” [2] concept, it is the part of a wider environment. In this context the net is a sort of “space-like opportunity” where states do confront not in terms of sovereignty, but with their ability to access to all kind of data resources available, even if protected by other state’s laws.
This “war” is part of the global political and economic effort to control data as raw material and sell data exploitation infrastructures.
To achieve this goal, states must show a twofold ability: to offend, stealing and destroying data and data infrastructures; and to defend, an essential element to maintain a tutelary power on their citizens (data protection) and a political and economic power on countries unable to autonomously develop the same abilities.

Of course these two metaphors do overlap some times.
This kind of collateral warfare has been going on for years.



[1] Arquilla, John, and David Ronfeldt. “Cyberwar is coming!.” Comparative Strategy 12, no. 2 (1993): 141-165.
p.28: netwar represents a new entry on the spectrum of conflict that spans economic, political, and social as well as military forms of “war.” In contrast to economic wars that target the production and distribution of goods, and political wars that aim at the leadership and institutions of a government, netwars would be distinguished by their targeting of information and communications.

[2] Floridi, L., 2007. A Look into the Future Impact of ICT on Our Lives. The Information Society, 23(1), p.59-64.