Regional Perspectives on Cyber-Security: Formation and Evolution

Obama Cyber Security Agency

Regional Perspectives on Cyber-Security: Formation and Evolution

This is the first in a series of three working papers produced for our Second Annual Conference Student Webinar: '"Conceptual Conversations": Exploring Russian, European & American Understandings of Core Concepts Underpinning Russia-West Relations'. This first paper is based on collaborative research undertaken by Christopher JolliffeOliver Woodhall, Stelian Dumitrache and Sandra Rector, all current post-graduates at the St Antony's College, University of Oxford and the Freie Universität Berlin. The University Consortium's Annual Conference was hosted in partnership with the Kennan Institute of the Wilson Center from 5-6 October 2017.


The cyber weapon is a recent addition to the arsenal of states. Some commentators regard the advent of cyberspace as the most significant transformation in security affairs since the development of nuclear weapons. Indeed, some nations already regard it as an integral element of their national defence apparatus. Yet strangely at the same time, the integration of cyber realities and theory into the field of international relations is in its infancy, and gaps in security doctrine persist at the most elemental level. Recent work on the area identifies national perceptions as being shaped by events. Whether cyber-security reaches elites at the higher echelons of political leadership depends on a number of factors: personal interest, a direct experience of malicious cyber action, media attention, or the salience of cybersecurity on their national and international agendas. With this in mind, this paper seeks to explore the underlying reasons behind differing national and regional perspectives, look for similarities, and identify areas for potential cooperation between our three regions: Russia, Europe, and the United States of America. (n.b. the term ‘Europe’ here is taken as referring to those member states of the European Union). As a backdrop to our regional analysis, it is necessary to explore the term ‘cybersecurity’ and assess its application to our three areas. ‘Cybersecurity’ as we understand it, is a conceptually loaded multi-faceted term which can cover three key aspects: security of cyber infrastructure and data safety, informational-psychological security, and the institutional aspect of internet governance. We can see from analysing Western discourse that a narrower understanding of the term predominates – one concerned with the security of data and infrastructure. Whereas, in Russia and other areas of the globe including China, the term becomes conceptually broader – encompassing fundamental issues of regime security.

Indeed, the term ‘international information security’ has been invoked to describe the position typical of Russia [Zinovieva, 2013]. Here, concerns over the security of data and critical infrastructures are coupled with those from potentially hostile information, attacks, and propaganda that could be used with the aim of undermining an incumbent regime. The inauguration of such conceptual broadening was promoted by the colour revolutions in Russia’s ‘near abroad’ and the 2012, DDoS attacks on Golos during the Russian presidential election, and the 2011 Arab Spring, to name but a few of these junctures...

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