Cyberconflict

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Cyberconflict (Cyber Conflict -CC) = conflict in computer-mediated environments and it can also refer to ‘real world’ conflicts spilling over to cyberspace.

This entry was prepared by Athina Karatzogianni.


Contents

Definitions

Cyberconflict between states might constitute cyberwar (has not occurred yet). Typical of cyberattacks is the use by opposing parties of either information technologies as a weapon in denial of service, defacements, unauthorized intrusions and breaches of security or as a resource in the mobilization, organization and structure of state and non-state actors using information technologies to serve their agenda. These are normally low societal netwars (network wars) different from high-information warfare attacks that can cause breakdowns in the physical infrastructure (power grids, banking, etc).


Types of Cyberconflict

Types: Conflict in the real world can be intrapersonal (within ourselves), interpersonal (with other people), group conflict (within groups), organizational (within organizations), community (within communities), intra-state (civil war normally), international (between nations, including non-state actors). The study of cyberconflict is a very novel field of research presently defined, so many of these types of conflict are currently being observed and studied as they spill over from our ‘real’ world’ to cyberspace’.

One could say by stretching these types that studies on the effects of ICTs (information communication technologies) on the individual or on virtual communities and conflicts within them, such as multiple identities, flame wars or family disputes could be intrapersonal or interpersonal on an individual level, or between communities on community level and they do exist in cyberspace, as do organizational cyberconflicts and international cyberconflicts. For instance there can be cyberconflicts regarding different companies (i.e software wars) or between movements that support Information age freedoms (online privacy, p2p applications, free/open software movement) and their antagonistic institutions.


International Cyberconflict

Modes: So far we have not witnessed cyberconflicts between nation-states, but we have witnessed many cyberconflicts that were ethnoreligious in character, for example hacks, cyberattacks, and defacements between traditional ‘real world’ opposing groups such as the Israeli-Palestinian, Indian-Pakistani, and US-Chinese cyberconflicts or the use of information technologies by non-state actors to pursue ethnic or religious agendas (for example Al-Qaeda’s web recruiting and funding strategies). This mode of cyberconflict is ethnoreligious.

Another mode is sociopolitical, which is commonly called hacktivism. Examples include the mobilization and the organization of the anti-globalization or the global justice movement, anti-corporate and against poverty campaigns, the anti-Iraq war and global peace movements and the ecological or other new social movement campaigns, which have utilized information technologies and especially the internet to recruit, mobilize, organize and project alternative images of protest events and grasp opportunities to access the public through blogging and alternative/independent media.


Key Books to Read

For a theoretical model for cyberconflict and studies on the above examples see:


  • Karatzogianni (2006) The Politics of Cyberconflict, Routledge: London and New York.


For work on the future of conflict and netwars see:


  • J, Arquilla and D, Ronfeldt: Swarming and the Future of Conflict, Rand: California and J, Arquilla and D, Ronfeldt Neworks and Netwars, Rand: California. Online. Available http://www.rand.org


For information on social movements’ use of the internet see:


  • W, van de Donk et.al (eds) Cyberprotest: New media, Citizens and Social Movements, Routledge: London and New York.
  • M, McCaughey and M, Ayers: Cyberactivism: Online Activism in Theory and Practice, Routledge: London and New York.


More Information

The following associations are relevant:

Cyber Conflict Studies Association ( www.cyberconflict.org)

The information warfare site (www.iwar.org.uk)