Letter From the Editors

Cyber is a hot issue right now. But it is no passing fad. Cyber is pervasive in the news, policy discussions, and education, and there will be implications for almost everything—from security to governance to communications. While there has been a great deal written about cyber issues in recent years, experts are only beginning to wrestle with the essential questions and understand their ramifications.

Cyber realities are changing faster than many policymakers and academics can keep up with. New technologies are constantly being introduced and new norms are regularly being developed that affect how states and organizations operate. This new normal is defying conventional wisdom and challenging the basic assumptions of prominent international relations theories. The Cyber Issue is an attempt to cut through the noise and offer sober analysis on the most critical problems.

The research and opinions found in these pages were developed against a contentious backdrop of high-profile news stories. Fears were high that outside powers and individuals could influence the U.S. presidential election, heated debates continued over the right balance between security and privacy, and hackers targeted global businesses and media outlets and disrupted Internet service in countries around the world, from the United States to Liberia.

The Cyber Issue features leaders in the field who have written articles that both break new ground and will serve as foundational studies for the examination of cyber issues moving forward. In our peer-reviewed articles, Heather Brooke, the professor and award-winning journalist, goes inside the digital revolution. She argues that while technology can make governments more transparent and strengthen democracy, it can also increase surveillance and threaten democracy. Oxford’s Philip N. Howard and his coauthors investigate whether social media use helps or harms civic engagement. It is commonly believed that social media conversations about politics are brief and lack substance, but they find evidence in Mexico that social media discussions can build greater political involvement.

Stanford’s Herbert Lin writes the definitive account of the attribution problem. The difficulty of quickly and correctly identifying the perpetrators of cyber attacks has been one of the biggest concerns about cyber threats, and this article puts together the best expertise on all aspects of attribution. Benjamin Dean, a former cyber fellow at Columbia SIPA, writes an overdue evaluation of national cybersecurity strategies. And the manager of the strategic intelligence and forecasting arm of FireEye, Christopher Porter, analyzes strategic deception. Formerly with the CIA, he describes how states can better detect and expose strategic deception campaigns in cyberspace.

This research is given more context in our arguments and interviews. Columbia’s Jason Healey provides a non-state strategy for saving cyberspace. He warns that even though the Internet has been a truly transformative technology, it is unsustainable unless major changes are made. Rob Knake and Adam Segal, experts at the Council on Foreign Relations, detail how the United States can contain China in cyberspace, arguing that following President Obama’s playbook is a good place to start.

We interview Toomas Hendrik Ilves, until recently the president of Estonia, about the consequences of cyber attacks. Richard A. Clarke, who served three U.S. presidents, discusses the risks of cyber war and cyber terrorism, and Sorin Ducaru, an assistant secretary general of NATO, looks at whether real cyber defense is possible or not. Kim Zetter, the award-winning cyber journalist who recently reported for Wired, gives an insider’s look into the cyber community. And we talk with one of the journalists who broke the Edward Snowden story, Glenn Greenwald, about secrecy and transparency.

The winners of our student essay contest offer fresh insight into these issues. Nicole Softness looks at terrorists’ use of social media and the relevant legal precedents, offering a unique take on whether Facebook, Twitter, and Google should be held responsible for dangerous content. Justin Key Canfil outlines an original theory that assesses the propensity of states to delegate cyber attacks to non-state actors. We also review several of the most important new cyber-related books, including Lords of Secrecy by Scott Horton, The New Tsar by Steven Lee Myers, and Dark Territory by Fred Kaplan.

There is no shortage of topics raised in these pages that deserve further study, but we think our issue is a good start and makes an important contribution to the field. We are proud of putting together such an impressive group of scholars and ideas. Thank you for reading.

The Editors