Measuring the World: How the Smartphone Industry Impacts Cyber Deterrence Credibility

Measuring the World: How the Smartphone Industry Impacts Cyber Deterrence Credibility

Dirk Westhoff (University of Applied Sciences Offenburg, Germany) and Maximilian Zeiser (University of Applied Sciences Offenburg, Germany)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-7909-0.ch025

Abstract

The authors claim that location information of stationary ICT components can never be unclassified. They describe how swarm-mapping (crowd sourcing) is used by Apple and Google to worldwide harvest geo-location information on wireless access points and mobile telecommunication systems' base stations to build up gigantic databases with very exclusive access rights. After having highlighted the known technical facts, in the speculative part of this article, the authors argue how this may impact cyber deterrence strategies of states and alliances understanding the cyberspace as another domain of geostrategic relevance. The states and alliances spectrum of activities due to the potential existence of such databases may range from geopolitical negotiations by institutions understanding international affairs as their core business, mitigation approaches at a technical level, over means of cyber deterrence-by-retaliation.
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1. Introduction

1.1. Background

In 2012 Barack Obama commanded his senior national security and intelligence officials to draw up a list of potential military destinations of the cyberspace, to develop means to mitigate their proper functionality as well as to develop means to destroy these destinations. According to the Guardian the Presidential Policy Directive 20, issued in October 2012 but never published, states that what it calls Offensive Cyber Effects Operations (OCEO) “…can offer unique and unconventional capabilities to advance U.S. national objectives around the world with little or no warning to the adversary or target and with potential effects ranging from subtle to severely damaging…” (The Guardian, 2012).

It would be interesting to understand if this objective from a NATO founder member respectively a member of the United Nations Security Council is yet in line with the recent reconceptualization of NATO’s cyber deterrence thinking, namely “…that deterrence should be understood as a cumulative process of ongoing offensive and defensive operations that repeatedly demonstrate intent and capability as a means of generating credibility…” (Pijnenburg Muller & Stevens, 2017).

This article investigates whether one has to consider smartphones as a potential Swiss Army knife to provide useful geostrategic information with respect to the information cyber warfare. If that is the case it would prove another example for the multiplicity interdependencies of state, FAMGA1 and other tech companies in this arena. As publicly known since Snowden (Greenwald, 2014), the NSA holds various strategic partnerships, namely alliances with more than 80 private companies according to the Special Sources Operation (SSO)-program.

The contribution of this article is in line with the work from Jøsang (Jøsang, 2014) discussing potential cyber-war capabilities of major technology vendors. However, in this work the authors zoom to a specific but global scenario. The authors want to draw the attention to the mobile digital device market’s potential impact on cyber deterrence due to information infrastructure warfare, or, more concretely, what has been coined swarm mapping. Besides others it has also been pointed out in (van Niekerk & Maharaj, 2010) that “…the mobile infrastructure is important for national wellbeing, and should be explicitly considered as part of the critical information infrastructure.” In the rest of this article authors consider mobile devices running iOS or Android. This class of digital devices together with the movement patterns of citizens are ideal for measuring the digital world's wireless entry points as explained in this article. The title is chosen in similarity to the book title Die Vermessung der Welt (Kehlmann, 2005).

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