The Cyber-Industrial-Complex

The dynamic and rapidly evolving cyber-threat landscape has resulted in extensive budgetary, military, and legislative provisions, entrenching deep-seated relations between government, armed services, and commercial actors. The Cyber-Industrial-Complex and quest for ‘fifth domain’ dominance has significant geostrategic consequences. 




This paper lays plain the growing pressure and increased enthusiasm of governments, armed services, and commercial actors to develop and operationalise military capabilities in cyberspace. The argument shall be made that the lines between these ostensibly distinct spheres have become increasingly muddied, and we are witnessing the emergence of a new cyber-industrial-complex. Furthermore, blind faith that the militarisation of the fifth domain will achieve effectual cyber security is misplaced and, ultimately, the top-down control of cyberspace — at odds with prevailing internet behaviour — is an expensive means to achieve relatively ineffectual security.

Reference will be made to relevant case studies and conceptual frameworks from the social sciences. Analysis is approached through five convergent lines of enquiry: To provide context, first the development of the internet from a ‘tool’ to a ‘territory’ shall be discussed; exploring the various technological, demographic, and social shifts this evolution has fostered. Next, the geostrategic impact of cyber threats shall be touched upon, describing the economic, legal and strategic affects profoundly influencing our perceptions of cyberspace. This will be followed by the ways in which governments have sought to securitise cyberspace, highlighting the various budgetary and operational considerations driving the militarisation of the ‘fifth domain’. Following on, a discussion of ‘threat inflation’ and ’cyber-doom’ narratives shall be presented, critiquing parallels drawn between ‘cyber-war’ and Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMDs). Finally, the amalgamation of political, military, and commercial interests within the ‘cyber-industrial-complex’ shall be examined. In concluding, many of the challenges facing policymakers will be considered, and the call for sober, research-driven policy prescriptions will again be reiterated.

Primarily however, the inherent limitations of exploring a relatively young, multidisciplinary field examining such a rapidly evolving subject must be acknowledged[1]. Themes discussed here are therefore more akin to Weberian concepts of ideal typical discourses than static social truths[2]. Despite this papers validity and current application, it is but a cursory examination of the cyber-industrial-complex, intended to stimulate further debate, and as such caution should be exercised when making wider generalisations, predications or forecasts[3]. Indeed, it is suggested that the hyperbolic status quo should be reflected upon, reconsidered, and replaced with a far more objective risk assessment of the threats posed.

In order to effectively address the question and avoid tangential theoretical debates, the utility of explicitly expressed working definitions is crucial — appreciating that more appropriate vernacular may very well develop[4]. Throughout, ‘the internet’ is taken as the “global computer network, providing a variety of information and communication facilities, consisting of interconnected [network of] networks using standardised communication protocols”[5]. Here, Stevens’[6] definition of ‘cyberspace’ as the “total landscape of technology mediated communication” is utilised. It takes Cramer and Thrall’s depiction of ‘threat inflation’ as the creation of “concern for a threat that goes beyond the scope and urgency [a]… disinterested analysis would justify”[7].

The World Brain: from Tool to Territory

To contextualise changing attitudes and perceptions of cyberspace it is important historically ground this evolution. In 1937, futurist H.G. Wells hypothesised the future development of an international encyclopaedia or World Brain, encompassing the sum of human knowledge. In the 1960s Joseph Licklider, first head of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), envisioned a ‘Galactic Network’ of globally connected computers through which anyone could access information. Advancements in packet switching, standardisation of Internet protocols, and the expanded connection of the original ARPANET to include research and education institutions in the 1970/80s, saw Wells’ vision being plausibly discussed for the first time. The commercialisation of the internet occurred in the 1990s, as final traffic restrictions were lifted[8].

Today cyberspace is almost unrecognisable from earlier manifestations, now fully entrenched in all facets of modern life, culture, and commerce. The astonishingly rapid growth of cyberspace, from a research tool used by a few, to the ubiquitous framework sustaining global societies is unparalleled[9]. Widely considered a catalyst for globalisation, the rise of the internet, concomitant to the ascension of the information based global economy, will doubtless come to epitomise this era of history as the enlightenment and industrial revolution has preceding centuries[10]. The internet has transformed and revolutionised: employment, trade, culture, innovation, politics, research, education, development, sociality, information access, and, most notably, the communications landscape. In 1993 1% of the world communicated through two-way telecommunications, by 2000 this had risen to 51%, in 2007 it was 97%[11]. Internet penetration exploded from 360 million in 2000, to 2.4 billion in 2012 – an extraordinary 556% rise[12]. The world population is on course to reach 7.3 billion by 2016, with mobile internet devices exceeding 10 billion[13]. The volume of SMS messages tripled between 2007 and 2010, topping 6.1 trillion, averaging 200,000 messages per second[14].

Beyond enormous technical enhancements[15], cyberspace is experiencing a demographical shift, as the pendulum of internet concentration swings from the global North to the South, challenging traditional Western hegemony[16]. While cyberspace may be indigenously American, countries such as China, India, and Brazil will come to outnumber the early ‘digital natives’ within our lifetime[17]. Asia constitutes 42% of the planet’s internet population (#1), but enjoys only 21.4% penetration (#6), illustrating the enormous potential for connectivity[18]. Of 5.3 billion mobile subscriptions in 2010, 3.8 billion were from the developing world, and 18/55 highest internet penetrating countries are some of the “poorest and weakest of the international community”[19].

Inevitably new demographics bring fresh cultural, social, political, and strategic priorities. Cyberspace is now widely acknowledged as a “commons” where people socialise, engage, and organise, but also an environment in its own right[20]. In keeping with the pioneering, post-territorial aspirations of the internet[21], Sanderson and Fortin[22] observe large-scale adoption of cyberspace as dissolving physical confines and redefining core societal precepts. Renninger and Shumar[23] view the internet as a tool and a territory, facilitating users to assemble in the virtual arena who would otherwise be unable. Amit[24] describes shifting anthropological appreciations of the social environment, from tangible social forms to emphasising the virtual. Cyberspace can no longer simply be viewed as simply a medium, or even a medley of mediums, but as a “continent, rich in resources”, possibilities, and challenges[25].

Geostrategic Influence

This shift towards perceiving cyberspace as a new environment transcending society, economics, and geopolitics, has attracted nefarious actors seeking to exploit vulnerabilities to reap enormous personal and collective rewards[26]. Inevitably, this has drawn the attention of nation states seeking to protect their interests, whilst staking claim and establishing control over this emergent terrain[27]. Governments have sought to delineate boundaries, through a myriad of legislation, whilst military and intelligence entities have scrambled to assert their own influence over this territory[28]. Minimal barriers and relative anonymity of malicious actors, combined with the emergence of Web 2.0 and “malware ecosystems” propagating hacking tool-kits and botnets, have allowed determined groups — whether criminals, freelancers, military or intelligence agencies — to make substantial gains beyond real world means[29].

Once the sole concern of an inner circle of technologists, internet control and security has become the preoccupation of nation states. The three primary cyber-threats concerning governments are: 1. Theft, corruption, manipulation or exploitation of information; 2. Disruption of accessibility to networks, data, or resources; 3. Destruction or degrading of networks, infrastructure, and communications[30]. Within a geostrategic paradigm, such threats have profoundly influenced the militarisation of cyberspace[31]:

Firstly, there is the economic burden. The UK government placed the 2012 national cost of cybercrime at £27 billion, £16.8 billion being industrial espionage[32]. US intellectual property theft purportedly amounts to $250 billion per annum[33], cybercrime a further $114 billion, or $388 billion factoring in downtime[34]. McAfee[35] estimates global annual remediation costs to be an incredible $1 trillion, a statistic often cited despite being disputed by the very researchers ostensibly quoted[36]. The pilfering of sensitive information cost Coca-Cola their attempted takeover of Huiyuan Juice Group in 2009, producing losses in the region of $2.4 billion[37]. Nortel, once the world leading telecommunications supplier valued at $250 billion, declared bankruptcy in 2009 following a nine year data exfiltration[38]. The “astonishing” number of “industrial scale”[39] cyber-attacks targeting UK companies, prompted MI5 Director General, Jonathan Evans, to issue warning letters to the top 300 British businesses stressing the threat of “electronic espionage”[40]. Although ascribing the true cost of cyber-attacks is extremely difficult, immeasurable even, it is clear the costs from intellectual property and R&D theft alone are enormous, rising, and potentially of the magnitude to influence global power relations[41].

Secondly, we see an obscurity of political liability by utilising proxy servers, ‘cyber-militias’, and freelance hackers to execute attacks [42]. Potentially creating the smoke and mirrors useful for implanting ‘logic bombs’ into critical infrastructure, but primarily affording states plausible deniability for actions likely at odds with their official political stance[43]. An interesting case is the oft-cited 2007 Estonian incident, where Russian ‘patriotic’ hackers launched a DDoS attack on banking and civil service systems. Russia inevitability denied responsibility, and attribution proved unsuccessful[44]. Nevertheless, Moscow achieved the same coercive ends without any serious diplomatic repercussions, essentially punishing Estonia whilst circumventing legal accountability for targeting civilian institutions[45]. In more pugnacious uses of cyber-militia by Russia during her conflict with Georgia, the sabotage of key Georgian communication systems synchronised with kinetic military operations, further demonstrated the efficacy of deniability[46]. Had the military been directly implicated, Russia would have violated legal armed conflict doctrines, as cyber attacks on third-party states were necessary to disrupt Georgian systems[47]. Again, Moscow successfully sabotaged Georgia’s communications whilst evading liability.

Thirdly, the rapidly transforming cyber-threat landscape, has redefined the strategic perspective of many governments. States now view cyberspace as a means to either augment or substitute their kinetic warfare capabilities. The 2007 Israeli bombing of the Syrian nuclear facility at Dayr az-Zawr provides an interesting case in point. By using UAVs similar to the ancillary US programme Senior Suter[48], Israel was able to hack air-defence systems and manipulate radar images to display a clear sky, allowing F15 fighter jets to carpet bomb the site and leave Syrian airspace without any resistance or retaliation[49]. Many governments are proactively seeking to develop their cyber-arsenals, creating numerous dedicated institutions and markets to this end.

Militarising the Fifth Domain

The four year, £650m British Cyber Security Strategy emphasises protective, defensive, and ‘pre-emptive’ action aimed at: tackling cyber crime to ensure a secure business environment; improving system and software resilience; encouraging stable social arenas; and improving knowledge and skill-sets necessary to achieve these stated goals[50]. It details numerous provisions seeking to raise public and commercial awareness, bolster law enforcement and cross-border collaboration, improve industry standards, and develop MoD and GCHQ capabilities[51]. Although emphasising target hardening and resilience — a necessary and welcomed development — the offensive stance throughout is arrant:

“Defence Cyber Operation Group [is] to bring together cyber capabilities from across defence. The group will include a Joint Cyber Unit hosted by GCHQ… [to] develop new tactics, techniques, and plans to deliver military effects”[52]

Notions of ‘pre-emptive defence’ are echoed in the NATO Strategic Concept, where the language of prevention, detection, and defence blends with notions of military capability, operational reach, and strategic dominance[53]. This doctrine is most explicit in the US, where the Strategy for Operating in Cyberspace: Priorities for 21st Century Defense are candid about intentions to boost military capabilities and operational effectiveness in all realms – land, air, maritime, space, and now the ‘fifth domain’, cyberspace[54]. This mission has fallen to US Strategic Command (USSTRATCOM), who established US Cyber Command (USCYBERCOM) to synchronise operations across the military sphere, including Army Cyber Command10th Fleet Cyber Command,  24th Air Force, and Marine Corps Forces Cyber Command. An interesting directorial feature is USCYBERCOM’s dual locality within the NSA, and the unprecedented tri-hatting of Gen. Keith Alexander as Director of NSAChief of the Central Security Service, and Commander of USCYBERCOM.

In the 2013 US fiscal budget cyber capabilities are a priority; designating $3.4 billion for USCYBERCOM, with a total allocation of £18 billion through to 2017[55]. The Department for Homeland Security will spend: $345 million on the National Cybersecurity Protection System and EINSTEIN.3 – the intrusion detection and analytics system; $236 million will be spent on the Federal Network Security Branch to secure agency systems; $93 million on U.S. Computer Emergency Readiness Team, the operational wing of the National Cyber Security Division; $64.5 million on cyber investigations and computer forensics conducted by the Secret Service; and $12.9 million on virtual training and cyber-war games[56].

Although the tendency for governments to view the cyber-domain through a military lens may be more acute than ever, it is certainly not a recent theme[57]. The history of militarising cyberspace has been a gradual process concomitant to the technological, demographic, and social shifts previously discussed. ARPANET was originally funded by the US Department of Defense (DoD), the term “cyber-deterrence” was coined in 1994, and ‘Eligible Receiver’, the first NSA cyber-war games were held in 1997[58]. The first public reference to “cyber-attack” and “information security risks” were made by former CIA Director George Tenet in 1998, the same year cyber operations were consolidated under the Computer Network Defense Joint Task Force[59]. In 2003, the National Cyber Security Division was established, tasked with protecting government systems, and in 2006 plans for USCYBERCOM were announced. Perhaps then, using tactical or warfare rhetoric to describe objectives in cyberspace is somewhat inevitable. Yet, despite a long military history in the fifth domain, the economic, political, and strategic affects of cyber-attacks, and the enormous budgets to further militarise cyberspace, no act of cyber-war has taken place. All known examples of politically inspired cyber-attacks amount to either sabotage, subversion, or espionage[60], and cannot be considered war by the Clausewitzian[61] definition, as all three rudiments are not present: violence and potential lethality of the act, instrumental imposition will over another, and perceptible and attributable political responsibility[62].

Cyber-Doom and Threat Inflation

Several high-profile cases are often referenced as evidence of impending cyber-war: the Estonian and Georgian DDoS incidents; The Operation Aurora case in which Google, Yahoo, Symantec, Northrop Grumman, and Morgan Stanley networks were compromised[63]; The Gh0stNet espionage network which leveraged Web 2.0 and cloud-based technologies to infect embassies, foreign ministries, NGOs, and government departments, implicating a Chinese military SIGINT base and organised crime[64]; The Stuxnet sabotage of Iran’s uranium enrichment facilities at Natanz, seemingly with US and Israeli involvement; and the sophisticated espionage toolkit Flame[65].

The drumbeat of “cyber-doom”[66] scenarios, replayed in the media echo-chamber, has provided a steady and constant cadence for the oratory emanating from  Westminster and especially Washington[67]. Prophetical disaster rhetoric evoked by ‘expert’ commentators envisage a cataclysmic cyber event, in which the financial sector collapses, planes collide midair, trains derail, military defences disintegrate, industrial control systems fail, “lethal clouds of chlorine gas” leak from chemical plants, gas pipelines and refineries explode, dams breach, reactors meltdown, power blackouts engulf the country, satellites spin into the obis, and “thousands of people” die… but authorities are paralysed in the face of crumbling communications and digital devastation[68].

This tone continues elsewhere: Secretary of Defense, Leon Panetta’s ominous forecast of a looming “cyber Pearl Harbour”, former head of the National Cyber Security Division, Amit Yoran’s claims “cyber-9/11 has happened”, Vanity Fair’s portrayal of Stuxnet as the “Hiroshima of cyber-war”, and Director of the International Telecommunications Union, Hamadoun Touré’s claims that “cyber-war will be worse than a tsunami”, are the most infamous, vacuous, and distasteful examples of this apocalyptic theme[69]. Although the most revealing doomsday framing[70] comes from former Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman, Carl Levin, when he stated; “cyberweapons and cyberattacks… approach weapons of mass destruction in their effects”[71].

Yet, nothing remotely resembling ‘cyber-doom’ has come to pass, and no fatality nor building destruction has even been attributable to a cyber-attack[72]. Despite Estonian politicians claiming that DDoS attacks and “a nuclear explosion…[are] the same thing”[73], NATO’s Cyber Defence Centre of Excellence described the impact of the attacks as “minimal” or “nonexistent”[74] This solipsistic introjection – assigning imagined behaviours and character traits onto an invisible enemy[75] – combined with a technological malaise characteristic of late-modernity[76], has seen the development of societal pessimism, dystopian fears, and a sense of political impotence regarding the prevalence of modern technologies[77]. These fears are reminiscent of bygone anxieties regarding earlier communicative mediums and reflective of broader, tenuous concerns about societal fragility[78]. Previous 20th Century moral panics over increased radio, telegraph, and telephone use, ultimately proved unfounded and transient, soon to be surpassed by the latest technological trepidation[79]

The WMD parallel does, however, provide an illuminating comparison in one regard. In the run up the Iraq war the Bush administration described a “bullet-proof”[80] link between Sadaam Hussein and 9/11 – purportedly providing refuge and training to al-Qaeda[81]. Controlled Whitehouse leaks implied Iraq held WMDs, successfully conflating the very different threats and consequences of chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons[82]. Although allegations — including the purchase of ‘yellowcake’ for uranium enrichment — were ultimately proved fallacious, 40% of Americans still believed Saddam Hussein was “personally involved” in 9/11 as late as 2006[83]. Although no evidence substantiated these alarmist claims, the media relayed the government line without scrutiny and the administration was essentially able to cite news articles written speculating upon their own fictitious leaks[84]. It is this amplification of risk, or ‘threat inflation’, that Cramer and Thrall[85] describe. Speculative commentary about Iranian or North Korean cyber capabilities, unsubstantiated suppositions of the Chinese “lac[ing] US infrastructure with logic bombs”[86], and unverifiable assertions from the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) that cyber threats represent “a strategic issue on par with weapons of mass destruction and global jihad!”[87], fuel cyber-doom advocacy, and conflate sabotage, espionage, and subversion, under the banner of ‘cyber-war’ in a manner eerily redolent of Iraq WMD threat inflation[88].

The Cyber-Industrial-Complex

President Eisenhower’s 1961 farewell address warned of a “hostile ideology…global in scope, atheistic in character, ruthless in purpose”[89]. He feared deepening monetary relationships between legislators, the military, and the industry providing defence services and supplies, would lead to skewed national, economic, and security priorities, in what he phrased the “military-industrial-complex”[90]. As during the Cold War, contemporary cyber-war rhetoric maintains pressure to keep up or fall behind in the neoteric digital arms race[91]. Despite technical and intelligence ambiguities as to how cyber-weapons would actually be deployed, the distinct absence of empirical evidence, and multifaceted ambiguities surrounding who, why, and what is under threat, and from whom[92], a thriving cyber-industrial-complex has emerged to save us from our cyber-doom.

In 2010, 1,931 private companies worked on intelligence and homeland security programmes in the US, 143 were contracted to “top secret” cyber operations[93]. In an era of austerity and defence cuts, US cyber-security expenditure is predicted to rise from $9.2 billion to $14 billion by 2016[94]. The global cyber-security market, currently worth $65.7 billion, will climb to $85 billion by 2016, growing by an extraordinary 9% in 3 years[95]. Upward budget trajectories have galvanised the cyber-security market, where the biggest beneficiaries will be traditional defence giants such as Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Raytheon, ManTech, and Northrop Grumman, who are already repositioning themselves within the cyber-industrial-complex[96]. Leading technology companies like Symantec, IBM, Cisco, and McAfee will also prosper[97], as will smaller cyber-security start-ups like NopSec, whose revenue has rocketed by 600% since its recent launch[98].

“Those who profit from war in materiel and machinery will be supplanted in time by those who profit in war from digital goods.”  — Dan Geer, Chief Information Security Officer, for the CIA’s In-Q-Tel [99]

However, it is not public-private partnerships that Eisenhower feared, but rather the deep-seated relations between policymakers, the military, and commercial venture, particularly where companies place themselves as objective experts and/or seek political “opportunity to sustain themselves”[100]. In the US, these boundaries are now so porous and convoluted, that one cannot see the wood for the trees. Sen. John Rockefeller’s former Chief of Staff, turned Cisco Systems cyber-security lobbyist, Jim Gottlieb, donated $19,000 the Democrat candidate[101]. Rockefeller, who famously sought retroactive immunity for AT&T’s warrantless wire-tapping[102], proposed the 2010 Cybersecurity Act which directed billions into cyber-security programmes, prompting Sen. Ron Wyden to proclaim that the US is witnessing:

“The development of an industry that profits from fear … creat[ing] a cyber-industrial-complex that has an interest in preserving the problem to which it is the solution” [103]

This is indicative of the intensifying and intricate nexus of relationships developing. The election of Rep. Jim Langevin was funded primary by General Dynamics and Raytheon. Deloitte and BAE were amongst the top five contributors to Rep. Mike McCaul. Both men co-chair the CSIS panel, alongside Lt. Gen. (Ret) Harry Raduege, now IT executive for Deloitte, and Scott Charney, Corporate Security Vice President at Microsoft[104]. These conflicts of interest cast severe doubts over CSIS’ objectivity, as well as the agendas the policies they influence may serve[105]. Inveterate relationships have also seen the revolving-door culture of employment and opportunity develop. Former NSA Director, Vice Adm. (Ret) Michael McConnell, became Director of Defense at Booz Allen Hamilton, before being reinstated as Director of National Intelligence by the Bush administration. McConnell then later rejoined Booz Allen as Head of Cybersecurity Business, prior to Booz Allen securing a $71.5 million cyber-security contract, totalling $189.4 million if extended to 2016[106]. Boeing, Lockheed Martin, and BAE have all hired ex-military or security officials in cyber-security operations[107]. In 2012 Lockheed Martin won a $400 million contract facilitating the Pentagon’s Cyber Crime Center and Northrop Grumman secured a three-year, $189 million cyber DoD resilience contract[108].

Too Fast to Tie Down

Cyberspace has evolved from the auxiliary and novel, to the essential and omnipresent. Technological advancements have seen the internet develop from a research tool, to a ubiquitous framework transcending, connecting, and underpinning every facet of modern society. The post-territorial, nature of the internet has dissolved geopolitical boundaries, creating a borderless, open, but ultimately ungoverned, virtual region. The exponential rise of cyberspace within an incredibly short time frame, has meant growth has accelerated faster than government ability to control this emerging terrain.

Demographical shifts and the ascension of the global South as cyberspace’s prospective new majority, have brought new cultural, social, political and strategic priorities, underscoring real-world challenges to Western hegemonic dominance. These changes have aided shifting perceptions of what ‘cyberspace’ entails and represents, to the point that cyberspace is viewed as a domain in its own right, comparable to land, sea, air, and space. In the past, information fluidity and system connectivity took precedence over authentication, identity, and security. Consequentially, networked systems and platforms in energy, finance, transport, and communication sectors, have seen industrial control systems, critical infrastructure, and national capabilities reliant upon networks intended to be open, collaborative, and malleable. Unsurprisingly, this has led to a dynamic, complex, and rapidly developing threat landscape, with a spectrum of attacks mounted against individuals, governments, businesses, and industries, as malicious actors seek to exploit system vulnerabilities to further their political, criminal, or nefarious ends.

Within a geostrategic paradigm, cyber-attacks have had profound effect on: economic competitiveness and the loss of national advantage; technical attribution, plausible deniability, and diplomatic accountability; and governmental attention and political oratory paid to control, and security. Collectively, these factors have successfully redefined national goals and ambitions to reflect a strategically offensive stance, with discourses now firmly framed within the language of ‘pre-emptive’ action to protect interests. Reinforced by government narratives, and dramatically reported by an often uninformed and sensationalist media, several high-profile incidents, of varying seriousness and sophistication, have also brought cyber-security to the forefront of public consciousness. ‘Cyber-doom’ scenarios and apocalyptic prophecies have become commonplace, resulting in inappropriate and inane analogies. Despite lacking empirical evidence, cyber-attacks have been placed as equivalent to humanitarian crises, natural disasters, and even nuclear war.

Threat inflation has heralded a flurry of top-down legislative and budgetary accommodations regarding cyber-security, and the establishment of many new government entities with the sole focus of achieving geostrategic ambitions. These are mainly facilitated by military and intelligence entities who have a longstanding history of operating in the cyber domain. Enormous cyber-centric budgets have resulted in a burgeoning global industry, in which companies compete for government contracts and practitioners enjoy a revolving-door of work opportunities between government, military, and private industry. Consequentially, the cyber-industrial-complex has deeply ingrained relationships, resulting in clear conflicts of interest, and the erosion of objectivity. Individuals, companies, and governments whose business interests and careers are served by the maintenance of anxiety concerning cyber-security, convolute and inflate threats presenting their services as the solution.

Future Direction

Whilst online threats — stolen state secrets, intellectual property, competitive advantage and personal data — pose very real and difficult challenges for governments and private industry. The alarmist knee-jerk reaction to those threats and the societal fragility, the aggressive lobbying pursued, and the conflation of interests, raise serious concerns over larger, more calculated, commercial strategies and demonstrate how the cyber-industrial-complex has fanned the flames of a neoteric digital arms race.

This could result in an expensive Cold War-esque stand-off between those nation states at the forefront of the race for cyber dominance, namely America, Israel, Russia, Iran and China, escalating tensions further and eroding diplomatic and trade relations. This also risks coalescing military activity with subversion and economic espionage, subsumed under the catch-all banner of ‘cyber-war’. Secondly, absorption of talent and technology within the war machine, alongside increased asymmetric tactics by malicious actors circumventing attribution, will likely spawn new white and black-hat electronic markets engaged in the pernicious trading of cyber-arms, exploits, and botnet services, as increased labour divisions result in a modular business module[109]. Moreover, the actual security benefits achieved by extensive cyber-weapon investment may prove misplaced, weighed up against astronomical development costs. Target information must be so detailed and precise, that powerful weapons will only be of use against a solitary target, and for a single assault, before exploits ‘burn-out’. Furthermore, the speed technology evolves, compared to the time required to research, develop, and deploy a sophisticated cyber-weapon, means the shelf-life of weaponised code is short lived, risking weapon redundancy before deployment.

HG Wells’ optimism, expressed in The World Brain, had been replaced by pessimism and scepticism by the time he published Mind at the End of its Tether. In a similar manner, fears of a dystopian dependence upon technology, as well as enduring but largely erroneous anxieties about the brittleness of contemporary society, have led to a cyber paranoia and the merging of diagnostic and motivational discourses. The top-down militarisation of the fifth domain is hyperbolic and ineffective, discordant to the founding principles of cyberspace and at odds with prevailing W3 trends. Deterrence and protection likely to be more successful by resilience building, thorough upgrading, repairing, and modernising of systems, alongside encouraging decentralised, user-generated, organisation and governance of social arenas.

Detailed technical analysis; gauging vulnerabilities, developing technical solutions, and reconsidering software and systems architecture is critical. Adopting multi-disciplinary approaches to include analytical perspectives from political science, military and technology history, disaster sociology, and security studies, can also offer important insights, vital objectivity, and contextual grounding. This paper seeks to add to the burgeoning body of literature within this rapidly evolving field, and attempts to promote empirically grounded, research driven, and analytically sober debate with the mind to inform more conversant and commensurate cyber-security policymaking.


Photo Credit: Cristi eXPV

[toggle title= "Citations and Bibliography"]



[1] Shipman, (1997)

[2] Poggi, (2006)

[3] NCIX, (2011:i-iii)

[4] Shipman, (1997:16)

[5] ODO, (2012); Gralla, (2007:7)

[6] Stevens & Neumann, (2009:10)

[7] Crammer & Thrall, (2009)

[8] Greene et al (2003)

[9] Deibert & Crete-Nishihata, (2012)

[10] Bauman, (2000); Severs-Millard, (2012ac)

[11] Hilbert & López, (2011)

[12] IWS,.(2012)

[13] Alexander,.(2012)

[14] Deibert-&-Rohozinski,.(2011:23)

[15] IWS,.(2012);-Knight,.(2003:15);-Ahlgren,.(2005);-Edensor,.(2001)

[16] Deibert,.(2011);-Deibert-&-Rohozinski,.(2011:23);-Deibert-&-Crete-Nishihata,.(2012)

[17] Brito-&-Watkins,.(2011);-Lawson,.(2011);-Deibert-&-Rohozinski,.(2011:26)

[18] IWS,.(2010a);-IWS,.(2012)

[19] ITU-(2010);-IWS,.(2010b);-UN-OHRLLS,.(2011)

[20] Deibert-&-Rohozinski,.(2011:24)

[21] Goldsmith.&-Wu,.(2006:16-25)

[22] Sanderson-&.Fortin,.(2001)

[23] Renninger-&.Shumar,.(2002)

[24] Amit,.(2002:3)

[25] Glenny,.(2010)


[27] ibid.

[28] Glenny,.(2010);-Deibert,.(2012);-Deibert-&-Crete-Nishihata,.(2012);-Lynn,.(2011)

[29] Villeneuve,.(2010);-Henderson,.(2008);-Andres,.(2013);-Alexander,.(2011)

[30] Lord-&-Sharp-et-al.(2011:25-40;165-182)

[31] Andres,.(2013)

[32] Detica,.(2012)

[33] Symantec-Corp.,.(2012)

[34] Alexander,.(2012)

[35] McAffe-Inc.,.(2012)

[36] Maass-&.Rajagopalan,.(2011)

[37] Wong,.(2008);-Lambert,.(2012:8);-Severs-Millard,.(2012c)

[38] ibid.

[39] Evans,.(2012)

[40] Rawnsley,.(2011)

[41] Severs-Millard,.(2012);-Clarke,.(2010);-Ottis,.(2010)

[42] Andres,.(2013);-Henderson,.(2008)

[43] NCIX,.(2011:1)

[44] Czosseck,.(2011)

[45] Andres,.(2013)

[46] ibid.

[47] Czosseck,.(2011)

[48] Gasparre,.(2008ab)

[49] Severs-Millard,.(2012)

[50] Cabinet-Office,.(2011)

[51] Cabinet-Office,.(2012)

[52] Cabinet-Office,.(2012: 26[4.9])

[53] NATO,.(2010)

[54] Department-of-Defense,.(2012a)

[55] Rosenberg,.(2012);-DoD,.(2012b);-DoD,.(2012c)

[56] Roberts,.(2012)

[57] Rid,.(2012b:5-6)

[58] Clayton,.(2011)

[59] ibid.

[60] Rid,.(2012a)

[61] Clausewitz,.(1832)

[62] Rid,.(2012);-Severs-Millard,.(2012)

[63] Paul,.(2010);-Naraine,.(2010);-Severs-Millard,.(2012);.Clinton,.(2011)

[64] Glaister,.(2009);-Markoff,.(2009)

[65] Zetterer,.(2012)

[66] Dunn-Cavelty,.(2007);-Dunn-Cavelty,.(2008)

[67] Brito-&-Watkins,.(2011)

[68] Clarke,.(2010)

[69] Panetta,.(2012);.Gross,-(2011);-Schneier,.(2010);-Meyer,.(2010)

[70] Dunn-Cavelty,.(2007);-Dunn-Cavelty,.(2008)

[71] Levin,.(2010)

[72] Rid,.(2012)

[73] Poulsen,.(2007)

[74] Ottis,.(2010:720)

[75] Suler,.(2004)

[76] Bauman,.(2000)

[77] Marx,.(1997:984)

[78] Crowley-&-Heyer,.(2006)

[79] Cohen,.(1972);-Crowley-&-Heyer,.(2006)

[80] Scmitt,.(2002)

[81] Bush,.(2002)

[82] Brito-&-Watkins,.(2011)

[83] CNN,.(2006)

[84] Massing,.(2004)

[85] Crammer-&-Thrall,.(2009)

[86] Clarke,.(2010:99)

[87] CSIS,.(2008: 15)

[88] Brito-&-Watkins,.(2011)

[89] Digital-History,.(2012)

[90] ibid.

[91] Deibert,.(2011)

[92] Walt,.(2010);-Stohl,.(2007);-Greenwald,-(2010)

[93] Priest-et-al.-(2010ab)


[95] Gartner-(2012)

[96] Deibert-&-Rohozinski,.(2011:34);-Romm-&-Martinez,.(2012);-Flamm,.(2013);-Cole.&-Gorman,.(2009)

[97] Ricdela,.(2010)

[98] ibid.


[100] John-Slye,-cited-in-Romm-&-Martinez,.(2012)

[101] FEC,.(2013)

[102] EFF,.(2005)

[103] Webster,.(2012)

[104] Carney,.(2011)

[105] Brito-&-Watkins,.(2011)

[106] Mclean,.(2011)

[107] Carney,.(2011)

[108] Romm.&-Martinez,.(2012)

[109] Sageman-et-al.(2008);-Rid-&-Mc-Burney,.(2012)



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One thought on “The Cyber-Industrial-Complex”

  1. A very good and accurate read. My 1st email address was Characte@IPv4 (preDNS).

    The difference is significant, most will not understand.
    The Maginot cyber-line of defense is a waste of money.
    Industry like$, Academia is frozen-out, Crackers and Hackers are stealth. IMO: An academia (MIT, Stanford, CalTech, CMU …) lead anonymous group of 1337 crackers, phreakers, hackers … plans/architecture can provide far more than Indu$try. Indu$try should be froze-out until … the install.

    Future: Information creates social change and technology application?
    Legacy: Technology creates social change and information application!

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