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The Cyber Shell Game – War, Information Warfare, and the Darkening Web

Conference:  BlackHat USA 2019

2019-08-07

Summary

The talk discusses the clash of values and visions in cyber-conflict, and how it is reflected in major cyber campaigns, international diplomacy, and internet governance. The speaker argues that the weaponization of information is a bigger threat than the militarization of cyberspace, and that the free internet is at risk of being fundamentally changed.
  • The concept of cyber-conflict is viewed differently by different countries, with some seeing it as a tool for psychological warfare and regime change.
  • The US has invested in hard deterrence as a cybersecurity policy due to the difficulty of defending its large attack surface.
  • The weaponization of information is a bigger threat than the militarization of cyberspace, as it can fundamentally change the free internet.
  • International law has a clear definition of cyber attacks, but not all countries adhere to it.
  • The clash of values and visions in cyber-conflict is reflected in major cyber campaigns, international diplomacy, and internet governance.
The speaker mentions the concept of reflexive control, which is a psychological warfare tool that breaks everything down to information packets and aims to get the adversary to do something they wouldn't otherwise do. This is an example of how cyber operations are part of a wider paradigm of information warfare.

Abstract

This year we celebrate a dubious anniversary – it’s been 20 years since the first major resolution on “information security” was submitted in the United Nations, and it was the first of many. But this is not the “information security” you are looking for. Instead of ISO2700x and protecting data, this version of information security is about content. It’s not foremost concerned with a hyper-kinetic “cyber war” of burned-our critical infrastructure but is all about ““information warfare” and regime change. For many foreign governments see the current free Internet as the biggest threat to their own security and would like a very different Internet to emerge: top-down, intergovernmental, and framed around security. And despite the best efforts, the US and her allies are not always able to resist the siren call of new legislation and moves towards an intergovernmental-dominated Internet system. This clash of values is also a clash of visions, and strategic games – and increasingly the free Internet is a subject of a shell game, where sleights-of-hand and information warfare masquerade as cyber espionage attacks and preparation for all-out war.This talk will review the ideological differences of cyber-conflict, and how these have operationally been reflected in both major cyber campaigns and incidents as well as in international diplomacy and Internet governance. It traces the forces that threaten to shift the Internet fundamentally from its current utility as a enable of freedoms to one of security and control. And it asks how the Internet can be saved – from this outside threat, but also from itself.

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