Cyber wrap
18 Jun 2014|

Cyber policy was on the table at the 5th Japan–Australia 2+2 Foreign and Defence Ministerial Consultations in Tokyo last week. Building on Tony Abbott’s April commitment to hold a bilateral cyber dialogue, the consultation established that Canberra would host the inaugural event before the year’s end. The dialogue will explore common cyber threats and look to strengthen cooperation at the regional and international levels. This news comes on the back of a $400,000 cash injection from Japan and the US to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), which will go toward developing ASEAN’s cybercrime investigative capacities.

Stateside, the net neutrality saga rages on. Last month, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) proposed a new set of rules to maintain net neutrality, which confusingly seem to allow the ‘pay-for-priority deals’ that are newly being investigated. This week it has launched an investigation into recent deals between entertainment companies and Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to determine if they undermine the principle of net neutrality (whereby web traffic is treated equally by ISPs). The practice of content providers like Netflix agreeing to pay ISPs like Verizon and Comcast to guarantee faster delivery of their products has critics concerned that the Net will be divided into fast and slow lanes according to who can pay what, and that risks stifling competition from start-ups. US Congress have become involved in the issue overnight, with the Democrats introducing a bill requiring the FCC to use whatever authority it deems necessary to stop ‘paid prioritization agreements’.

If you’re keen to get a better handle on the net neutrality issue, there’s no more coherent, honest and amusing feature than the one presented by John Oliver on Last Week Tonight in early June. Oliver’s diatribe resulted in the FCC’s online comment system crashing after he encouraged ‘Internet commenters’ to take advantage of the 120-day public consultation period to voice their concerns. If you’re after a more detailed read on net neutrality, n+1 published an engaging and erudite examination in its most recent issue.

In case you missed it, the Danish Institute for International Studies has published a working paper that uses Carl von Clausewitz’s On War (1832) to explore the role that cyber attacks might play in war. While finding the text to be of great value in understanding that relationship, the author concludes that ‘the effects are second-tier, especially when compared to conventional military weapons’, with future warfare fought principally in cyberspace deemed unlikely. Rounding out our visit to cyber theory is the recent examination of cyber power covered in the ‘Personal Theories of Power’ series being run by The Bridge and the Center for International Maritime Security (CIMSEC). The author recognises two forms of cyber power:

First, cyber power extends and accentuates existing forms of military power. It helps shape the battlefield through intelligence collection and information operations. In some cases it facilitates military effects that were previously only achievable through kinetic means. Second, cyber power is a unique political instrument. Most military professionals are all too familiar with the elements of national power marched out during professional education courses: diplomatic, informational, military, and economic. Cyber power connects to each of these components but also offers new options. Stronger than diplomacy and sanctions, yet not to the level of Clausewitzean war, cyber power expands the spectrum of power projection available to policy-makers.

Congratulations to Professor Jill Slay and the team at the Australian Centre for Cyber Security which launched this week at the Australian Defence Force Academy campus of the University of New South Wales. The centre aims to link cyberwonks across government and academia to focus on five key research groups: ‘computer/network security, risk management, international politics/ethics, law and big data analytics’.

All manner of regional cyber matters were up for discussion as ICPC’s Klée Aiken was interviewed by ASPI’s Natalie Sambhi for the latest instalment of Sea Control: Asia Pacific podcast for CIMSEC. Have a listen here.

Finally, the Atlantic Council’s Jason Healey has written a call-to-arms over at The National Interest on the Internet as a lawless Wild West or perhaps a ‘war-torn, failed Somalia’. Healey registers his concerns that unsustainable cyber practices could jeopardise the Net’s utility to social progress: ‘How many future Renaissances or Enlightenments will never occur simply because we treated the Internet as a place for crime, spying and warfare (“everyone does it” after all), rather than the most innovative and transformative product of human minds in five hundred years?’ For those based in Canberra, Healey is in town for the ADM Cyber Security Summit later this week and we look forward to welcoming him to ASPI tonight for a presentation and panel discussion on The Global Interconnections of Cyber Risk. More information here.

David Lang is an intern in ASPI’s International Cyber Policy Centre.