Cyberwarfare or hooliganism: A short consideration of the difference

Media reports have created a meme that any or all conflict that occurs in cyber space is cyber warfare. This is an injurious concept of the conflicts within cyber space. It leads to gross generalizations and political punditry that could be horribly astray of public need and will. Spray painting a gang tag on the side of a building is not good citizenship but it is not war. Similarly defacing a website is not war. Proportionality of response is important in the seeking of justice and active prosecution of people. Cyber space is no less in need of proportionality and understanding than the real world.

According to Clausewitz war is just the diplomacy of a country at a new scale. Other descriptions of war include the active use of force against a national level organization or political infrastructure for the purposes of creating change or ideological agreement. A suicide bomber blowing up an army convoy to kill soldiers and forcing a troop withdrawal is terrorism. A F15 dropping a JDAM on a line of troops prosecuting close air support is war. Semantic deconstruction is important because the rule of law, and law of war, hinge on the use of words to describe actions.

Consider the cases of Georgia and Estonia. The primary attack vectors through cyber space were well-regulated distributed denial of service attacks and web site defacements.  When hackers attacked yahoo and various others rarely did we consider that cyber warfare. However, the term “cyber warfare” is sexy and will get you lots of hits and interest. Referring to hooliganism or childish pranks with computers however does not drive traffic or interest.

Misconstruing the level of conflict between nation states and possible non-state actors is a dangerous if not political insensitive issue. More important this issue will likely cause the misapplication of nation-state power against entities and parasitically draw effort and will away from areas that are important.

I have been told that my blog posts are way to long so I will leave this post here.

4 comments for “Cyberwarfare or hooliganism: A short consideration of the difference

  1. September 13, 2008 at 11:59 am

    Sam, this is a great point, and one that could help narrow the focus of the so-called “cyber warriors”. It is also a perspective that will be critical to the success of Gray Goose, and if you are not familiar with the project I encourage you to check it out!

    http://bit.ly/4svaM3

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