Franklin D. Kramer is a member of the Atlantic Council Board of Directors and also a member of its Strategic Advisors Group. Mr. Kramer served as Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs during the Clinton Administration and, previously, as Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs.
“We must generate adequate international cyber stability so that a cyber attack on key operational networks will not tip us into or escalate hostilities…” “Priorities are necessary since a desire to protect everything equally is not practically implementable from either a resource or a political standpoint…”
New inventions often generate new problems. Information technology, the Internet, digital networks, cyberspace—whatever the preferred appellation—is no different. Cyber crime affects consumers and businesses. Cyber espionage, both of business and national security secrets, is prevalent. However, potentially the most disruptive cyber concern is the capacity of information technology to generate or escalate geopo- litical conflicts into open or uncontained hostilities through attacks on operational networks.
Undermining critical operational capabilities such as the military or the electric power grid dependent on cyber—and in today’s Information World, most operational capabili- ties are cyber dependent—could generate a perceived need to move a confrontation toward conflict or to escalate a contained conflict into a broader arena. Cyber systems now are more-or-less in equilibrium. Despite some problems, they are running adequately, but a small push will destroy the balance. Unfortunately, the geopolitical world is full of pushes—many of which are unanticipated.
International cyber stability can be achieved by gener- ating a platform of resilience, cooperation and transparency, with resilience being the fundamental component and coop- eration and transparency providing support. For the United States, achieving these ends will require a three-part strategy of internal action to reduce vulnerabilities focused on key operational networks, collaborative activities with close allies and partners, and transparent interaction for the cre- ation of norms, provision of assistance, and dialogue with others, including potential adversaries, to reduce risk. (purchase article…)