Columbia International Affairs Online: Working Papers

CIAO DATE: 01/2015

Cyber Security: The Road Ahead

Fred Schreier, Barbara Weekes, Theodor H. Winkler

January 2015

Geneva Centre for the Democratic Control of Armed Forces


The open Internet has been a boon for humanity. It has not only allowed scientists, companies and entities of all sorts to become more effective and efficient. It has also enabled an unprecedented exchange of ideas, information, and culture amongst previously unconnected individuals and groups. It has completely revolutionized on a global scale how we do business, interact and communicate. Cyberspace is defined by its ubiquitous connectivity. However, that same connectivity opens cyberspace to the greatest risks. As networks increase in size, reach, and function, their growth equally empowers law-abiding citizens and hostileactors. An adversary need only attack the weakest link in a network to gain a foothold and an advantage against the whole. Seemingly localized disruptions can cascade and magnify rapidly, threaten other entities and create systemic risk. However, vulnerabilities in cyberspace are real, significant and growing rapidly. Critical national infrastructure; intelligence; communications, command and control; commerce and financial transactions; logistics; consequence management; and emergency preparedness are wholly dependent on networked IT systems. Cyber security breaches, data and intellectual property theft know no limits. They affect everything from personal information to national secrets. This paper looks at the way these problems are likely to develop, as well as atsome of the ways they may best be tackled at the national and international level.