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“Cyberwar”: Past and Present of a Contested Term By Philipp von Wussow

Philipp von Wussow takes a closer look at the shifting concept of "cyberwar." He identifies two extreme positions in the current ­debate. Both bear little relationship to the actual technical ­potential of cyber attacks, and have more in common with fears from the Cold War era. On the one hand, some believe that ­humanity is threatened by catastrophic cyberwar scenarios, or even total annihilation ("cybergeddon"). For those in the opposite camp, it is wrong to talk about "cyberwar," since this only ­encourages the military and intelligence services to take control of the internet, and raises the risk of escalation.

At core, according to the author, the real issue is that that the ­ubiquity of cyber crime and cyber espionage makes the "permanent exceptional state becomes the new normal state." Thus the ­conventional dichotomy of war and peace no longer fits. Characterized by struggles for hegemony and latent danger, this state of uncertain state" could best be compared to a Hobbesian state of nature - the war of all against all.

And yet, von Wussow continues, it is foreseeable that this anarchic status quo (corresponding to the Hobbesian model) will be contained by various processes, because in the long term this is in the interest of the major players. But any "top-down" formation of norms, for example via instruments of international law, seems less suited to this purpose than the development of best practices that emerge from the cyber world itself. Case law on liability issues and the establishment of industrial standards will also play a significant role.

In the author's view, the sheer number of authorities involved in these processes and the prevailing division of tasks between state and private sector refutes the idea of a "militarization" of cyberspace. Equally, given the potential threat posed by a possible cyber attack, the military should not be denied all powers of cyber defense.

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