February 3, 2016—International conflicts in cyberspace have increased since 2012, with countries now openly using the web to attack, steal from, and spy on each other. Given how embedded the Internet has become in people’s lives, these disputes could have devastating consequences.
“While it should continue to promote and espouse the virtues of an open, global, and secure Internet, the United States must prepare for a more likely future—a highly contested, nationally divided cyberspace,” writes Adam Segal, director of the digital and cyberspace policy program at the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), in his new book, The Hacked World Order: How Nations Fight, Trade, Maneuver, and Manipulate in the Digital Age.
“The challenges of the hacked world order are both familiar—other states will pursue policies that limit U.S. power and influence—and unconventional—new actors may exploit unexpected and unknown vulnerabilities in networks to wreak damage and destruction,” writes Segal, who is also CFR’s Maurice R. Greenberg senior fellow for China studies.
In the book, Segal details the characteristics of a fractured cyberspace, including
- China’s and Russia’s attempts to implement a more controlled, state-centric version of the Internet;
- North Korea’s and Russia’s deployment of cyberattacks as a tool of political conflict and influence;
- cyber weapons designed to cause physical damage or death, such as the Stuxnet virus allegedly deployed by the United States and Israel to destroy centrifuges at an Iranian nuclear enrichment plant;
- clashing positions between the United States and European Union over user privacy, which were exposed by the disclosures about National Security Agency global surveillance programs;
- the use of social media by the self-proclaimed Islamic State, Israeli and Palestinian activists, and Russian and Chinese trolls to counter mainstream media narratives; and
- Brazil’s push to globalize Internet governance and reduce American control over cyber policy.
To maintain American influence and enhance security in this new environment, Segal identifies three core objectives for the U.S. government:
- Increase cyber defenses at home to deter and prepare responses to cyber assaults, thefts, and espionage.
- Collaborate with private technology firms to attract more technology talent to public service and to establish agreements over privacy, data collection, and trade.
- Build an international coalition with friendly countries that share the goal of a free and open cyberspace.