Cyber warfare as a form of conflict: Evaluation of models of cyber conflict as a prototype to conceptual analysis

Samuel P. Liles, Purdue University


In April 2007, what has been incorrectly called the first cyber war and since then referred more correctly as a cyber riot, an attack on the domain name systems and the various servers of Estonia occurred. It was perpetrated by ethnic Russians living in Estonia who were incensed by the movement of a bronze war memorial for Russian soldiers to a grave yard from the center of town (Evron, 2008, p. 122). The cyber riot was nearly simultaneous with the actual real world riots. This brought the idea of cyber warfare and conflict in cyberspace into the public view. It may be better to replace the idea of asymmetric threats with the idea of strategic threats as the threat may not be asymmetric (e.g. large scale cyber warfare) but the adversary's strategy is asymmetric in effort. If according to Clausewitz, we are willing to accept that there are two primary things needed for war (politically opposed will-power and the ability to field a military) then a missing element of cyber warfare may be the ability to field a military (Szafranski, 1990, p. 39). This research states, "Given the unstructured domain of cyber warfare knowledge a specific model will allow experts to produce a concept map significantly more detailed than absent the model." Experts were solicited in a variety of venues to map cyber warfare using a concept mapping process and provide a deeper understanding of the concept. Two technology-centric models were given to groups of experts to assist them in explaining elements of cyber conflict. One group was just given the cyber warfare question and no specific model as guidance. The groups were then compared to see if either of the models had better explanatory power per the experts responses.




Rogers, Purdue University.

Subject Area

Information Technology|Computer science

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