I was recently invited to participate in a cyber security dinner discussion by a few
members of a well-known Washington, DC, think tank. The idea was that we could
enjoy a fine wine and a delicious meal while allowing our hosts to pick our brains about
this “cyber warfare stuff.” It seems that the new threatscape emerging in cyberspace
has caught them unprepared and they were hoping we could help them grasp some of
the essentials in a couple of hours. By the time we had finished dinner and two bottles
of a wonderful 2003 red, one of the Fellows in attendance was holding his head in his
hands, and it wasn’t because of the wine.
International acts of cyber conflict (commonly but inaccurately referred to as cyber
warfare) are intricately enmeshed with cyber crime, cyber security, cyber terrorism, and
cyber espionage. That web of interconnections complicates finding solutions because
governments have assigned different areas of responsibility to different agencies that
historically do not play well with others. Then there is the matter of political will. When
I signed the contract to write this book, President Obama had committed to make cyber
security a top priority in his administration. Seven months later, as I write this introduction,
cyber security has been pushed down the priority ladder behind the economy
and health care, and the position of cyber coordinator, who originally was going to
report directly to the President, must now answer to multiple bosses with their own
agendas. A lot of highly qualified candidates have simply walked away from a position
that has become a shadow of its former self. Consequently, we all find ourselves holding
our heads in our hands more often than not.
Cyberspace as a warfighting domain is a very challenging concept. The temptation to
classify it as just another domain, like air, land, sea, and space, is frequently the first
mistake that’s made by our military and political leaders and policymakers.
I think that a more accurate analogy can be found in the realm of science fiction’s
parallel universes—mysterious, invisible realms existing in parallel to the physical
world, but able to influence it in countless ways. Although that’s more metaphor than
reality, we need to change the habit of thinking about cyberspace as if it’s the same
thing as “meat” space.