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Risky War Games: Why We Can Only Lose in the Cyberwar. By Anke Domscheit-Berg

As the internet finds its way into all areas of modern life, it seems hard to imagine that originally, in 1968, it was a military project to network a few computers together. Having brought this fact to the reader’s attention, Anke Domscheit-Berg notes that the idea of “active cyber defense” suggests a remilitarization of the internet. Cyberspace is becoming a war zone, she argues, where cyber weapons are added to the military’s arsenal. At the same time, people around the world are subject to surveillance by security services, as we have known since Edward Snowden’s revelations.

Played down as merely a normal means of modern defense, calls for “active cyber defense” and for “hackbacks” by the state are growing louder in Germany, as elsewhere. Yet in the author’s view, such instruments are incompatible with the German constitution. Not only that, but the risk of escalation with such activities is massively underestimated: uninvolved persons could be affected all too easily. It is extremely difficult to separate civilian and military targets in cyberspace.

So there is only one way to make us all safer in the digital age, and that is to ensure that software and hardware are as secure as ­possible. But this is at odds with the desires of the intelligence services and armed forces. They highly prioritize surveillance opportunities and cyber attack capabilities. For this reason, says the author, once new software and hardware weaknesses are identified, they are often systematically and secretly left open. In this way, the state itself becomes a security risk.

Finally, Domscheit-Berg advocates transparency in software and hardware development, and comprehensive digital education. After all, as she puts it, people are still “one of the biggest weaknesses.”

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