Digital Conflict

By Kevin Coleman

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Kevin Coleman

What should be the United Nations' cyber role?

A number of questions have been raised lately that are generating some interesting discussions about the role of the United Nations in cyber warfare and peacekeeping efforts.

While the United Nations is active in the cyber domain, its role, mission and objectives are less clear. For example, in one recent conversation a cyber warfare subject matter expert asked, "What would a United Nations cyber conflict peacekeeping force look like, and how would it respond to significant acts of cyber aggression?" 

Perhaps a better question would be whether United Nations' cyber peacekeepers would be able to keep a cyberattack from escalating into an all out cyber war. Given the United Nations' activities in arms treaties and control, is there a role here for cyber arms control?

When we consider such factors as the significant growth of cyber crime, the proliferation of cyber weapons, and the use of cyberspace by terrorist organizations to recruit, train and conduct other activities, it seems some action on the part of the United Nations is necessary. Added to this is the fact that some cyberattack attribution appears to be an exchange of weapons to fire between nations.

The Internet is a component of peace and security, global development, human affairs and has a substantial impact on International law--all areas of focus for the United Nations.  It just seems that cyber conflict is a good fit for the United Nations' portfolio of activities. That being said, addressing the numerous cyber areas listed above will be a huge challenge. That is why there is a clear need and activity in the area of cyber diplomacy. The U.S. State Department started this due to the broad range of U.S. interests in cyberspace. 

Make no mistake about it, cyber diplomacy is part of modern diplomatic relations in the highly connected world we live in. It will only grow from here.



Posted by Kevin Coleman on Nov 08, 2012 at 12:55 PM

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