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Book review – "Cyberpower and National Security" | Vyūha
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Book review – “Cyberpower and National Security”

US President Barack Obama announced last year that America’s digital infrastructure is a “strategic national asset,” and set up a new Cyber Command headed by the director of the National Security Agency, signaling the importance of cyberpower in a nation’s internal and foreign policy. “Cyberpower and National Security” is one of the most comprehensive and scholarly books available on the topic of cyberpower.Cover of "Cyberpower and National Security"

The book is divided into six broad sections. The first three chapters form the foundation section that aims to identify and discuss major policy issues and formulate a preliminary theory of cyberpower. Chapter 1 looks at the key policy issues, categorizing them into structural and geopolitical. Chapter 2 establishes a common vocabulary for the cyber domain, with definitions for key concepts of cyberspace, cyberpower, and cyber strategy. Chapter 3 presents the initial theory of cyberpower.

Chapters 4 to 9 form the second section, “Cyberspace.” Chapter 4 looks at structural elements that constitute cyberspace, while chapter 5 identifies vulnerabilities affecting the critical national infrastructure of the US, including power grids, communication systems, and cyberspace infrastructure. In chapter 6, the authors look at trends in cyberspace: proliferation of broadband, the move to Internet protocol, version 6 (IPv6), increasing software complexity, the rise of online communities, and so on. Chapter 7 looks at the information security issues affecting the Internet, both on a small and large scale. Chapter 8 raises several policy issues that the authors think are relevant to the future of cyberspace, including security, identity, and location-aware computing, while chapter 9 explores the biotech revolution and the blurring of lines between humans and technology.

Section 3, “Military Use and Deterrence,” consists of four chapters. Chapter 10 looks at environmental power theories, compares them to cyberpower, and comes up with common features. Chapter 11 considers the question of whether networking operators do indeed improve operational effectiveness. Chapter 12 provides an overview of the cyberspace and cyberpower initiatives undertaken by the military, and chapter 13 looks at the contentious issue of the deterrence of cyber attacks.

The chapters in section 4, “Information,” look at the power of information and its role in the military and government. Chapter 14 examines the strategic influence of cyberspace information on international security. Chapter 15 explores the challenges associated with influence operations at the tactical level, while chapter 16 looks at the related issue of how information and communication technology and strategy can influence stability operations. This topic is further pursued in chapter 17, which analyzes various policy and institutional activities.

Section 5, composed of three chapters, looks at the way cyberpower can empower nations, terrorists, and criminals. Chapter 18 considers the way crime has advanced in cyberspace, especially the use of cyberspace by organized crime to further their agenda. Chapter 19 tries to scope the term “cyber terrorism,” and considers the debated question of whether it exists or is just a myth. Chapter 20 looks at the use of cyberspace by China and Russia.

In the last section, chapter 21 looks at the complex and sensitive issue of Internet governance and how the US can achieve “Internet influence” in the face of pressure from other nations. Chapter 22 discusses legal issues associated with cyber warfare, particularly two classes of problems: lawful resort to force and use of force in wartime. Chapter 23 provides a critical assessment of the US federal efforts to protect critical infrastructure. The last chapter pushes for setting up a Cyber Policy Council to provide a structured solution to some of the vexing problems in the area.

Compared to other books on the topic [1,2], this book is very detailed and theoretical in its coverage. Given its comprehensive coverage, it should be read and digested by those who have more than a passing interest in cyberpower and cyber strategies but with a liking for a more scholarly treatment of the problem space.

1)Carr, J. Inside cyber warfare. O’Reilly, Sebastopol, CA, 2009.
2)Clarke, R.A.; Knake, R. Cyber war: the next threat to national security and what to do about it. Ecco, New York, NY, 2010.


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