Cyber Power & International Politics

On October 6, 2016, Professor Ryan C. Maness of Northeastern University visited the “Global (In)Security” seminar taught by Professor Roberto Dominguez.  The seminar included a presentation, as well as a question and answer panel at the end. Professor Maness presented the results of his research based on his book “Cyber War versus Cyber Realities: Cyber Conflict in the International System,” (Brandon Valeriano and Ryan C. Maness, Oxford University Press, 2015) as well as quantitative data from his most recent research.

During the seminar, we discussed the efficacy of cyber coercion in international politics. Cyber coercion is a revolutionary dimension of modern-day conflict. Cyber conflict, Professor Maness states, is the battle over information. Cyber coercion is used primarily between rival state-actors and is defined as the power to use cyber technology to bend the will of your opponent to your advantage. Cyber coercion is another form of cyber conflict used alongside other strategies such as manipulation (espionage), denial (compel/deter) and punishment (disruption). Cyber technology has no real stake in traditional warfare yet, so long as a cyber kinetic weapon remains in science fiction.

global-insecurity_ryan-maness-visit_10_6_2016Professor Maness’ studies reveal that espionage and disruption are the most effective forms of cyber conflict, not coercion. He hypothesizes that cyber coercion may be efficient if used as an auxiliary within state interactions like diplomacy, sanctions or military threats. His latest research seeks to test this thesis. To conclude, Professor Maness reminded us that we are only in the beginnings of the era of cyber power – and states must consider caution in operations of cyber strategy.

submitted by John Burke, student reporter, class of 2018