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Panel 8. Cyber Security and International Relations: The intersection of Technology, Science and Security Studies*

Chairs: Paolo Foradori (School of International Studies, University of Trento) & Luigi Martino (Scuola Superiore Sant’Anna Pisa)
Discussant: Paolo Foradori (School of International Studies, University of Trento)

Date: Friday | 10.30 - 12.35
Room: Aula Ardigò

*Panel organized by the School of International Studies of the University of Trento in the context of the program 'Science, Technology and International Relations' (STERI)


Cyberspace has become a crucial factor in the dynamics of contemporary International Relations with Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) having empowered the interaction and interconnections of states, interest groups, NGOs, IOs, and individuals. However, their all-encompassing, ubiquitous nature, and their growing political and military application pose significant risks to international peace, stability, and security. The low barrier of access to ICT capabilities, speed of technological advances, and the complexity of the cyberspace environment, with regard, for instance, to the traditional legal definitions of borders, have presented new challenges to and within the international system, and for managing international stability. The purpose of this panel is to analyze the nuanced impacts of cyberspace on international politics, with a particular focus on the effects and dynamics of the cyber dimension on classical concepts such as war, peace, and international security. It also seeks to highlight various policy initiatives launched at the national, regional, and international levels aimed at governing and mitigating the possible malicious use of ICTs.

Confirmed Papers:

1) Give Diplomacy a Chance: International and Regional Policy Initiatives of the UN, OSCE, and the G7 in Order to Enhance Transparency and Cooperation in Cyberspace
Luigi Martino (Scuola Superiore Sant’Anna Pisa)

Cyberspace and ICTs carry enormous potential for economic and social development across societies. However, they also pose significant challenges to global security. In particular, the complexity of the ICT environment and the problem of accurate attribution of cyber-attacks give one the ability to deny responsibility and frustrate attempts to build trust and political rapport in cyberspace. Moreover, reports of states possessing or developing ICT capabilities of an offensive nature as well as a number of events involving the use of ICT tools by states, such as Estonia (2007), Georgia (2008), Iran (2010) and, more recently, Ukraine (2015-2016), and the UK (2017), have notably increased concerns that the use of ICTs can lead to an escalation of tensions and even conflict between states. Recognizing the urgency of addressing potential political or even military tension over the use of ICTs, a number of regional and international processes have been initiated with the aim of enhancing cyber stability among states. Such efforts include identifying both norms of responsible state behavior with regard to the use of ICTs and confidence-building measures to reduce the risks of conflict stemming from the use of ICTs. This paper highlights the main process carried out, at the international level, by the UN Governmental Group of Experts (UN GGE), and at the regional level, by the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), in order to address the main topic of cyber diplomacy in cyberspace.

2) Cyberspace in Space: More Opportunities Or Simply Greater Vulnerability?
Giampiero Giacomello (University of Bologna)

Is cyberspace limited to Earth? If not, what is the extent of its vulnerability? While cyberspace is a “virtual” world, its activities and contents depend on cables, servers, and routers located somewhere on Earth, thus falling under state authority. There is however a move towards building cyber-infrastructure in the atmosphere and in outer space, through balloons, satellites, and possibly by mean of other bodies in space. Private actors, such as Google, spearhead the development of moving beyond Earth – in 2013, Google launched “Project Loon,” experimenting with “balloons” in the Southern Hemisphere, in the attempt to bring cyberspace in hard to reach places. It appears to be another step toward the “privatization” of space, but it could be more than that, as one may place some routers in space. This move seems to be part of revamped plans for permanent human space settlements. Will this move mean more opportunities for many places to exploit cyberspace or greater vulnerabilities than currently exist? How might communities and states on Earth be affected if this new infrastructure collapsed? This paper seeks to explore the potentially dramatic changes that could take place if parts of cyberspace were to shift to the atmosphere and into outer space.

3) New Technological Borders, A Digital Definition of the Nation-State? The Case of Italy
Jean-Pierre Darnis (Istituto Affari Internazionali, Rome)