«Workshop held 9-10 January 2008 in Arlington, VA Prepared for US Strategic Command Global Innovation and Strategy Center (USSTRATCOM/GISC) Prepared ...»
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Deterring VNSA in Cyberspace
* “yes” indicates contribution to this report Deterring VNSA in Cyberspace Appendix B: Workshop Notes Edited by Alan Shaw, Institute for Defense Analyses Workshop: Promoting and Protecting U.S. Interests in the Cyber World: Violent (and nonViolent) Non-state Actors; held 9-10 January 2008 at Directed Technologies, Inc, Arlington, VA Workshops are, by their nature, only moderately ordered discussions. Agenda topics are often addressed out of sequence, or intermittently; topics not on the agenda often arise in the course of discussions and become foci of interest. Ideas are raised, tested, developed, and often significantly altered. This workshop was no exception. Indeed, because of its exploratory nature, the discussion was perhaps even less orderly than what is typical. That has the salutary effect of stimulating thinking, and allowing ideas to emerge and be developed. This appendix is not a transcript of the proceedings. It is more of a summary “think piece” in which the workshop participants did the thinking, and others attempted to capture the participants’ main thoughts as they support the purposes of the workshop. It summarizes the workshop discussion in more or less chronological order, and so complements and supports the main body of the workshop report paper, which captures the main ideas and presents them in an orderly fashion.17 This appendix does not include prepared briefings and other presentations.
Workshop Day 1:
Who and what are we talking about deterring?
The basic charge is to consider violent non-state actors (VNSA); the participants noted that, if taken strictly, this could be too narrow. A state can exert leverage on a VNSA. Deterring the VNSA might be facilitated by deterring the state sponsor; or deterring the VNSA may be a tool to affect the state. VNSA implies political actors, but we shouldn’t dismiss criminals from consideration.
Similarly, just because a group is non-violent doesn’t mean that it isn’t very much against us or able to cause us significant problems that we would like to be able to deter. On the other hand, we tend to lump folks whose idea of world order differs from ours together with those who oppose us with violence. By concentrating on violent actors, we may overlook other significant opponents; but treating all who see the world differently than we do as if they were VNSAs could also be a mistake.
The tendency is to concentrate on deterring (or stopping) major acts. However, aggregated small actions can have a large net effect. Small perturbations can create large problems in the REPORT EDITOR’S NOTE: This transcription is a conversational recap of the events of the 9-10 January 2008 VNSA Workshop as compiled by the editor named above. While not an “Event Minutes,” it is a depiction of relevant points and lines of query presented during the workshop and some of the interactions between participants in which these points were raised and discussed. The points and issues contained within this appendix serve to back up the formal observations made in the main body of the report.
Deterring VNSA in Cyberspace aggregate, including creating disorder that states or VNSAs can then exploit. Sequential small changes can be cumulative, leading to a situation that we don’t like and is hard to reverse. This leads us to think about deterrence as affecting activities so as to shape the future in a way that we want it to be.
We need to be careful about thinking in terms of the binary US and THEM. This complex environment features a range of players, each of whom is part of the context: good guys, bad guys, neutrals, non-adversaries; violent actors, non-violent actors; real actors and fictitious persona. One suggested part of the approach to deterrence is to deter types of actions rather than specific actors. Trying to conduct a certain type of act brings an automatic, unpleasant response, like the directed energy weapon that causes pain to anyone who enters into the protected area.
Or data-base equivalent of retail store dye packs. The hacker can steal the data, but he can’t sell it. Maybe it has bad data embedded in the real data, and the hacker cannot separate the two.
The globalized Internet environment
Part of what we are talking about here is navigating through a period of rapid expansion and evolution, which does not, as yet, have an adequate rule set. Although it takes time, a rule set will emerge. So maybe we should be thinking about how we identify the rule set that we want, and then do what we can to steer the world in that direction. However, it is unrealistic to think that there will be an identifiable end state. Things will get more settled, while continuing to evolve.
Globalization is a major factor in this discussion. This is not the first time in history that globalization has occurred. For example, the 13th and 14th centuries were an earlier period of globalization. In these periods, political structures are challenged, and non-state actors challenge states. After some time, new structures, new rules, new alignments take effect, and things get less open and chaotic.
The Internet is an increasingly ubiquitous global medium. This more or less global Internet presence expands opportunities to entities beyond nation states. The Internet allows for the creation of virtual personae. So we can be dealing with an actor who is an on-line persona that differs from any specific physical person. The person behind the virtual persona can be several steps removed and insulated. One physical person can have many virtual personae. Several people can collectively be behind one virtual persona, and so on. Through this medium, a persona can appear or act almost anywhere almost instantaneously.
While a VNSA can operate on the Internet, no violence occurs on the Internet. However, cyber activities can support violent actions. (note: later in the discussion, some participants took exception to this, citing virtual violent actions that can have similar psychological effects to actual violent actions, the use of “hacking” to cause physical damage to facilities, and doing violence to cyber assets such as financial databases.)
Examples were offered of violence in cyberspace:
1. An attack on State Department computers that resulted in “fried” hard drives Deterring VNSA in Cyberspace
2. rape in 2nd life – physical persona complains of psychological effects as a result of rape in a virtual world (remember 2nd life entities are built by the real person with considerable investment of time and interest)
3. Pictures of Abu Ghraib atrocities, video footage of beheadings: images of violence that may encourage actual violence. Pictures have more of a visceral impact than words do.
So what can be accomplished in the cyber world? This is the context within which to define deterrence and deterrent actions. We can practice persuasion and dissuasion. We can attempt to “keep bodies at rest” (i.e. inhibit the beginnings of movements or activities that are not in our interest). We can try to practice “deradicalization”; but there was skepticism that this can really be done. We can try to influence “fence sitters” to fall in one direction rather than the other. We can work through public channels or private (i.e. open access or restricted access); directly or through intermediaries (either willingly complicit or unwitting accomplices).
How to deter
Consider the Muslim world. We are worried about the radical activists, but they are only a small subset. The radicals draw recruits from a much larger population. And they vie with other movements for influence. (Later on in the discussion, there will be explicit consideration of playing to, and encouraging the growth of, a Muslim middle class as a counterweight to the radical movements.) The radicals seek a stronger role for Islam. Other Muslims share this goal, but don’t necessarily share the detailed view of what Islam is and what that stronger role should be, or endorse the radical approach to achieving it.
Returning to the topic of types of deterrence activities, the following were offered:
1. directly deterring or preventing specific cyber activities, whether criminal or hostile, that would be captured under the general heading of “hacking”
2. fighting information battles
3. dissuasion, persuasion, shaping opinions, and so on
4. creating rules for actions and behavior in cyberspace; creating a stable environment that supports our needs.
It was noted that prosperity can also be a deterrent to radical behavior.
Whatever we think we would like to do has to be formulated within an environment in which the future is highly uncertain, and which our powers to shape are limited.
There was some discussion of terminology and concepts, particularly extending political/ military/ social concepts like “shaping” into cyberspace, and extending the concept of “hacking” into the political/ military/ social realm. Both such extensions were viewed as interesting, but also somewhat stretched.
There is also exploitation of cyber activities, particularly for gathering intelligence, to probe adversaries’ networks, support, connections, and thought patterns.
The participants restated two basic issues:
1. Are we concerned with deterring cyber activities (activities conducted in cyberspace), or using cyberspace to deter activities in the physical world?
Deterring VNSA in Cyberspace
2. Are we concerned with cyber tools, such as the instruments of hackers and thieves, what they can do and how they can be deterred, or are we concerned with a broader set of activities in the cyber world?
Regarding this, it was noted that the Internet provides both the ability to reach large populations, and a medium through which individuals (or small groups) can achieve disproportionate power.