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Using illustrative case studies, this paper proposes a response framework for states to avoid actions in cyberspace that would unintentionally engage them in armed conflict.
Cyberspace is the battleground of the new century – one that is likely to witness increased and diversified forms of aggression with the recent rise of world tension, driven by disputes over trade, territory and the coronavirus pandemic. Yet, increased tensions mean an increased chance of miscalculated intent. States would all benefit from a shared understanding of normal state behaviour in cyberspace. That common understanding must include shared intentions about appropriate responses to cyber incidents, especially in relation to determining which cyber operations are likely to elicit aggressive responses and which are considered part of the cost of doing business in international relations. States are understandably reluctant to reveal their thinking on this issue because they do not wish to encourage cyber misbehaviour below that threshold.
In this paper, Gary D Brown argues that a framework establishing categories of incidents and possible responses could be helpful in avoiding actions in cyberspace that would unintentionally push states to engage in armed conflict. Further, the tiered response framework proposed mitigates the downside of increased transparency.
Professor Gary Brown
Senior Associate Fellow