SPCTA: An Analytical Framework for Analyzing Cyber Threats by Non-State Actors

SPCTA: An Analytical Framework for Analyzing Cyber Threats by Non-State Actors

Harry Brown III (Norwich University, Northfield, VT, USA)
Copyright: © 2016 |Pages: 20
DOI: 10.4018/IJCWT.2016040104


The field of cybersecurity crosses multiple domains as it has risen to affect state governance. The Internet has enabled aspects of connectedness and capabilities that have the potential to effect state power. Such conditions affect the standing of nation-states within the international political system and their relation to other states. This is a matter of cyber-relations, where the behavior of states towards each other is based on the comparative cyber-capability of the state. Emerging conditions include the ability of non-state actors to wield similar cyber-power and affect state governance, and affect state operations and its contract with its constituents (contract alluding to the provisions for the public good). This research addresses the notion of non-state actors within this context, specifically, proposing and analytical framework for analyzing cyber threats from non-state actors.
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Defining Non-State Actors

UNCAs may be motivated to attack a nation-state using cyber technology. As such, these UNCAs are unsanctioned by any recognized state. The original thesis presented discourse on the various types of non-state cyber-actors; however, for the purposes of this article, we only mention them briefly with the assumption that the reader has some knowledge of cyber-actors. Literature on non-state cyber actors present a variety of non-state cyber-actors (Andress, Winterfeld, Steve., 2013; Rattray & Healey, 2011) that are motivated to perpetrate cyber-attacks for various reasons. Classes include individuals, corporations or organizations, organized crime, terrorists, autonomous agents, and UNCAs as they are defined in this research.

Figure 2 identifies the attributes of a UNCA. The environmental attribute suggests the requirements of the technological infrastructure necessary to carryout an attack. We also assert that the major attack goal is to perpetrate a Level-1 for the purpose of influencing or coercing the state for political or economic reasons. As we established earlier, the UNCA seeks to target nation-states or state agencies. The ability to carry out a cyber-attack on a target also assumes that the target sustains the technological infrastructure to support the attack vector, and operates within a nation-state that sustains a cyber-infrastructure necessary to organize and support a cyber-attack. Upon review of Figure 2, it important to recall that the attributes are specific to the UNCA as we have defined it. While there may be other attack goals, those of the UNCA are focused on Level-1 attack and causing disruption as an exercise of power to effect political outcomes. This creates the environment that allows and facilitates cyber-interaction between actors in the international political system.

Figure 2.

Attributes of an unsanctioned non-state Cyber Actor (UNCA)

Relevance of UNCAs

It is possible that a UNCA would perpetrate a cyber-attack against a state for the purposes of demonstrating power and pursuing interests in the same ways that states have historically demonstrated power, such as in Russia's efforts to demonstrate its power in the Russia-Ukraine Natural Gas Dispute of 2009, where Russia perceived it in its interests to stop the flow of natural gas to Ukraine (Brown, Harry, 2010). This may also be observed in North Korea's ballistic missile tests (James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies., 2014), and Pakistan's posturing and show of nuclear capability in 1998 (James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies., 2013). While these examples indicate kinetic or physical manifestations of force, it is in the same way that UNCAs may exploit asymmetric capabilities to exercise cyber-power to bring about desired outcomes. The Level-1 cyber-attack on Estonia was primarily accomplished by Russian interests in Estonia who did not want the statue commemorating Russian soldiers who died in World War II (Shakarian, Shakarian, & Ruef, 2013b, p. 16). The attack indicated a show of power, as well as coercion to bring about certain political outcomes. While Russian involvement and state-sponsorship has been argued, the case of Estonia indicates the reality of a cyber-attack perpetuated by non-state actors. These developments show the relevance of UNCAs in the international political system and how they might pose threats and carry out cyber-attacks to bring about desired outcomes. As such we must view UNCAs as capable transnational actors that pose threats to nation-states.

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