For over two decades, cyber experts, politicians, and military leaders have worried about war in the cyber domain, a campaign of destruction wrought via the globe’s networked information technology, infrastructure, and economy. Despite these concerns, however, cyber war has yet to occur, and the concept itself may be distracting from other nefarious online activity.
On September 9, the Center for 21st Century Security and Intelligence hosted Thomas Rid, reader in war studies at King’s College London, for the U.S. launch of his new book Cyber War Will Not Take Place, in which he argues that cyber espionage, sabotage, and subversion are the threats that countries really face. He was joined by an expert panel, including Visiting Fellow in cybersecurity Ian Wallace, and Jason Healey, director of the Cyber Statecraft Initiative at the Atlantic Council. They discussed the implications of cyber war and cyber weapons for national security and consider what cyber capabilities will mean for the future of conflict: What is the true military utility of cyber? Is the advantage really with the offense? Could the existence of cyber capabilities actually reduce the use of violence by states and non-state groups? What is at stake if we get the answers to these questions wrong?
Peter W. Singer, director of the Center for 21st Century Security and Intelligence at Brookings, moderated the session.