Positioning diplomacy within a strategic response to the cyber conflict threat

Renaud, Karen and Attatfa, Amel and Craig, Anthony (2021) Positioning diplomacy within a strategic response to the cyber conflict threat. In: 11th International Workshop on Socio-Technical Aspects in Security, 2021-10-07 - 2021-10-08, Online.

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Background. Nation states unleash cyber attacks targeting other nation states (e.g. WannaCry, SolarWinds), termed "offensive cyber operations". When such aggressions are deemed, according to the UN Charter, to constitute a threat to the peace, breach of the peace, or act of aggression towards a nation state, governments might choose to respond. Responses can range from silence all the way to retaliation, at the other end of the scale. The emergence of cyber diplomacy suggests a less militant and potentially powerful response option. Barrinha and Renard [5] explain that the rise of cyber diplomacy has coincided with "a growing contestation of the values, institutions and power dynamics of the liberal-created cyberspace". (p.3). The question is: how could cyber diplomacy fit into a strategic threat management plan? Aim. To position cyber diplomacy within a strategic response to nation state offensive cyber operations. Method. To help us to position cyber diplomacy's role in this domain, we first examine historical cyber conflicts, and governments' responses to these, as well as testing the factors that might explain response choice. We then review a number of proposed options for managing cyber conflicts. Results. We propose a comprehensive "Five D's" strategic framework to manage the threat of offensive cyber operations. Cyber diplomacy is included, acknowledging its emerging and potentially powerful role in managing cyber conflicts in the future. Conclusions. Cyber diplomacy has recently emerged and it has not yet been widely deployed. We show how it can be positioned within a strategic framework for managing the threat of offensive cyber operations from other nation states.