Levi Maxey over at The Cipher Brief echoes a few of the concerns I have had recently regarding Russia, information warfare, and cyber war. The first is that the West, the U.S. in particular, has been distracted by fears of cyber-doom when actual threats are both more mundane and potentially more difficult to prevent or mitigate. He writes,
Unlike Western fears of cyber warfare designed to shut off the lights and interrupt communications – which would be considered an act of war and allow for a nation to invoke its’ right to self-defense and conduct countermeasures – the difficulty in responding to such subversive information warfare that does not clearly meet the threshold of war, makes a retaliation framework difficult.
Of particular concern is that our response to Russian information warfare could backfire, eroding our own civil liberties, in particular rights of freedom of speech. Maxey quotes from Alexander Klimburg,
What’s more, retaliation in kind – propagating false or one-sided narratives through digital media – could fall for the bait set by autocratic regimes, causing freedom of speech and democracy to be lost in the process.
“We are moving into an area where we would allow all types of content to be considered potential weapons, and therefore there can actually effectively be no free speech,” says Alexander Klimburg, the Director of the Cyber Policy and Resilience Program at The Hague Centre for Strategic Studies. “We cannot conserve information warfare as the new normal by engaging in it or sanctioning this type of approach. If we go down that road, we have no room for democracy anymore.”