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PIR Center Director Vladimir Orlov publishes his paper "'No Holds Barred' and the New Vulnerability: Are We in for a Re-Run of the Cuban Missile Crisis in Cyberspace?" on PIR Center website

28.11.2019

The paper "'No Holds Barred' and the New Vulnerability” by Dr. Vladimir A. Orlov addresses the question whether the international community has to survive a cyber equivalent of the Cuban Missile Crisis to realize the importance of achieving some kind of agreement on cyber issues, and on the broader agenda of international information security. Though there is a considerable degree of scepticism about the possibility of drafting an international convention on non-proliferation of cyber-weapons amid deteriorating security situation, yet a first step must be made, and it does not have to be legally binding or comprehensive. 


Key findings 

  • The fear of cyberweapons is not on the same level as the fear of nuclear weapons. Nevertheless, it is also great, and it continues to grow because there’s no way of telling where the next blow may come from. This feeling of new vulnerability is akin to the feeling during the Cuban Missile Crisis. The realization that a potential adversary (a non-state actor or, more likely, a hostile state) may use the invisible IT networks to strike at our nuclear weapons control systems, our personal email boxes, our vote-counting systems, and our critical infrastructure facilities, leaves some paralyzed, others paranoid, and still others determined to prepare a symmetric or asymmetric response to any such attack. An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth – even if the eyes and teeth in question exist only in virtual reality. After all, the line between the virtual and the real is becoming so blurred that we may one day find ourselves, to our horror, eyeless and toothless.
  • The world is sliding to another major crisis like the one in 1962. The cyber war is already raging. There are no rules of engagement in that war. The uncertainty is high. The spiral of tension is getting out of control. The cyber arms race is gaining momentum. And there are no guarantees that the next crisis will be controllable, or that it will result in a catharsis as far as international information security regulation is concerned.
  • Bilateral agreements between key international infospace actors could become an important interim step towards a comprehensive solution. But the spiraling crisis in international arms control makes any such bilateral, legally binding agreements on cyber weapons patently unrealistic, at least for the time being. In other words, for the time being, there are no holds barred.


Read the paper

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