AUSTIN – Information security has never been more front and center than it is now. The recent hacking of the Democratic National Committee; the implications that Russia — a sovereign country — may have been deeply involved; the potential implication it had on a national election; and the accusations, difficulty in establishing proof, and what can be done about it, all form a perfect backdrop for a look at cyber attacks, cyber war, cyber espionage, and general cyber-malfeasance. At South by Southwest, Sean Kanuck laid out a framework for thinking about cyber attacks, the sometimes similar but mostly different form of warfare it can be, and some ways where escalation of this new form of attack can be limited going forward.

Kanuck is a lawyer, ex CIA officer, the US’s first National Intelligence Officer for Cyber Issues from 2011 to 2016, and is currently affiliated with Stanford’s Center for International Security and Cooperation. He framed cyber conflict by defining terms, and comparing and contrasting cyber conflict with traditional armed conflict. To start, he refutes that we should consider cyber war as another domain of war, like land, sea, or air. Cyber is a means to an end, a way to disrupt information flow or processes that depend on it, or to corrupt that information and make it unreliable. Cyber attacks are another form of obtaining a strategic result, not a form of war in and of itself.

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