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More respon­sibility for ­cyberspace – but how? By Götz Neuneck

Götz Neuneck is a leading German expert on arms control policy. He admits that the formulas and mechanisms of international arms control are not directly transferable to militarization tendencies in cyberspace. But he credibly shows that experiences from the evolutionary process of arms control can provide inspiration for confidence-building measures in cyberspace.

Ever greater interconnectedness is not the only factor behind rising vulnerability and a growing threat to international security. Various cybersecurity activities that are supposed to address this phenomenon involve increasingly aggressive operational capabilities, and hold an enormous risk of escalation.

The term “cyberwar” is not sufficiently well defined, so every international actor could understand it to mean something different. Enormous uncertainty is the result, since states set different criteria in their military doctrines to determine whether a cyber attack crosses the threshold of war. The United States, for example, has previously referred to North Korean hacking activities as “acts of war”. At the same time, according to Neun­eck, it seems as though intensifying competition between states is leading to an unstoppable militarization of cyberspace.

So is there any way to consolidate peace in cyberspace? There is no shortage of initiatives – both national and international – trying to achieve just that, and positive examples of a policy of détente in cyberspace already exist. But ultimately, it is yet another case of thinking about responsible action with the end goal in mind. What we need is a concept of the very essence of cyber peace that everyone can agree on, regardless of the notions of cyberwar.

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