How Cyber War is Different than War

Ultima Ratio Regum.jpgWar is a branch-path for governments to achieve political objectives through the influence or application of power.  Throughout history, leaders have applied cutting-edge technology in the pursuit of political aspirations, including subversion and direct conflict against adversaries.  In the 17th century, by order of King Louis XIV, newly cast cannons were embossed with the phrase “Ultima Ratio Regum”, translating to the Last Argument of the King.  The advanced cannons were the most extreme and potentially the last option, delivering violence in the name of the king to apply pressure in pursuit of his goals.

5 Domains of Warefare.jpgMany security professionals have speculated the future of cyber-war will manifest as ‘digital Pearl-Harbor’ scenarios of unimaginably devastating high-tech electronic attacks causing national level harm.  I believe it is more reasonable to characterize cyber-warfare as simply an expansion to traditional methods to project power and an extension of conventional warfare apparatuses which are currently employed.  In our generation we have become accustomed to traditional domains of operation (Air, Sea, Land, and Space) which are closely blended together in aggressive engagements.  Cyber-war capabilities will not be standalone mechanisms used independently as a means of pursuing goals, instead it is been added to the order-of-battle, augmenting the list to become the fifth domain of warfare.

The result is governments and other aggressive political groups will combine offensive cyber capabilities with traditional operational, support, and intelligence assets to deliver against objectives defined by their leadership.  In some cases cyber acts may take center stage, while in others they may play a supporting role.  Good tacticians consider all available resources when developing plans.   

Governments will continue to invest in all five domains, as a matter of foreign policy and national self-defense.  How they are used and limited is a decision of their respective leaders.  Cyber adds new dimensions to what can be accomplished and opens new battlefields which must be contended with.  WWI saw the rise of Air power and a race to dominate the skies.  Post WWII the worlds superpowers sprinted to leverage the ultimate ‘high-ground’ of Space.  If the recent up-swell of investment and organization in ‘Cyber’ is any indication, we are at the cusp of an arms race for Offensive cyber technology, which will transform the landscape of the cyber-security industry. 

Such grand investments fuel the capabilities of potentially affecting any system and communication structure on the planet.  The result should raise the concerns of organizations who rely upon electronic ecosystems.   The need for cyber-security will rise in parallel with the advances of global cyber-war offensive abilities.

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Matthew Rosenquist

About Matthew Rosenquist

Matthew Rosenquist is a Cybersecurity Strategist for Intel Corp and benefits from 20+ years in the field of security. He specializes in strategy, measuring value, and developing cost effective capabilities and organizations which deliver optimal levels of security. Matthew helped with the formation of the Intel Security Group, an industry leading organization bringing together security across hardware, firmware, software and services. An outspoken advocate of cybersecurity, he strives to advance the industry and his guidance can be heard at conferences, and found in whitepapers, articles, and blogs.