State of the Field Conference for Cyber Conflict

By Paul Rosenzweig
Thursday, June 16, 2016, 10:12 AM

In 2003 the Cyber-Conflict Studies Association was founded to foster the academic study of a new discipline -- conflict in the cyber domain. At the time they were more in the nature of Cassandra's trying to alert the world to a coming danger. Today, no one doubts the danger -- indeed it may well have reached the point where the fear of cyber conflict is over-hyped. But the flood of voices creates the danger of drowning out in volume more measured, rigorous study of the issue.

That, at least, is the thesis of today's conference on the "State of the Field Conference for Cyber Conflict" sponsored by the Columbia School of International and Public Affairs and the CCSA. The idea behind the conference is to bring together more than 30 experts to assess the state of the field from an academic perspective. The conference will break the field of cyber conflict into several sub-categories and assess the progress we have made (or not made) in understanding the problems. Sub categories include: International Relations; Tactical and Operational Level Dynamics; Intelligence and Adversaries; Strategic Dynamics; Cyber Conflict History; and Legal issues.

As to each the experts will want to ask:

  • What are the key questions in the field? What are the important issues that need definition? By way of example, in the field of international relations one such question might be "how do theories of deterrence work (or not work) in the cyber conflict?"
  • Since 2003 what progress has been made (or not made) in answering these questions? Again, by way of example, in the area of law, the publication of the Tallinn manual was a significant, perhaps even transformative, step in applying the laws of armed conflict to cyber. Yet it leaves many open questions and may well not be the final word, just the first in a long discussion.
  • Finally, the field is growing so rapidly that we are being overwhelmed with published works in the area. One objective is to plumb the knowledge of those in attendance to identify the "cannonical works" in the field that acadmeics and practitioners should be aware of.

The long term goal of the conference is a conference publication summarizing the results of the discussions. Look for it in the Fall. I'll blog some of my own thoughts on this a bit later as the discussion proceeds.