Cyberspace as a Complex Adaptive System and the Policy and Operational Implications for Cyberwarfare

Cyberspace as a Complex Adaptive System and the Policy and Operational Implications for Cyberwarfare

Albert Olagbemiro (United States Air Force Reserve, Charlotte, NC, USA)
Copyright: © 2015 |Pages: 14
DOI: 10.4018/IJCWT.2015100101


The overall implication of depicting cyberspace as a complex, adaptive ecosystem rather than its current representation as a bi-dimensional domain provides an avenue for further insight into the complexities associated with operating in cyberspace. This renewed perspective brings to the forefront the critical role of the civilian private sector in cyber warfare, due to the intermixing and heavy reliance of the United States Government (USG) on an infrastructure owned and operated by the civilian private sector. The implications of such a revisionist perspective leads to a theory of action, which suggests that given this heavy reliance of U.S.G entities to include DoD, on a cyber-infrastructure predominantly owned and operated by civilian private sector entities, authorization to wage offensive-styled cyber-attacks, as a defensive measure should not be limited exclusively to the DoD but also expanded to include authorized entities in the civilian private sector.
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Seeds Of Complexity

The term cyberspace is fundamentally an abstraction. As an abstraction, it manifests itself into physical reality through the Internet. Actors across all levels of society use cyberspace, each actor having different roles, motivations, and intentions. The physical manifestation of cyberspace is necessary because it needs an underlying means to exist in the physical realm—a mechanism, which the Internet provides in the form of a worldwide, publicly accessible series, of interconnected computer networks. The concept of open architecture networking was central to the design of the Internet with the idea of individual networks, independent of each other, possessing and presenting their own unique interface for integration, thereby creating a network of networks.

While the concept of open-architecture networking is the most powerful feature of the Internet, it is also its weakness. Since anyone can connect to the Internet without constraints on the types or geographic scope of networks, this makes it simple for hostile cyber participants to connect to the Internet. Furthermore, communication within this network of networks is primarily enabled by commercial entities through multiple interconnected backbones, called “Tier 1” providers, which provide the underlying infrastructure (e.g., routers, switches, etc.) through which data is transmitted. As of 2014, Tier 1 providers carry up to 98 percent of all U.S.G. communication traffic (Jensen, 2010).

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