Why the new cyberwar is tilted against democracies

In other words, while it is important that democracies not spy on their citizens, it is as important that democracies have ways to defend themselves and their citizens from the dangerous cyber world that is emerging. This new world is significantly imbalanced in favor of non-democratic nations—not because authoritarian states are more technologically sophisticated than their democratic counterparts, but because they are more institutionally flexible, opaque, unaccountable, and often corrupt. Last May, for example, the U.S. Justice Department indicted five Chinese military hackers for “computer hacking, economic espionage and other offenses directed at six American victims in the U.S. nuclear power, metals and solar products industries.” The U.S. military is also active in cyberspace and surely trying to breach the cyber defenses of other governments. But in contrast to their rivals in China or Russia, U.S. companies cannot rely on their nation’s spy agencies to steal the commercial secrets of foreign competitors.

The 9/11 attacks popularized a concept that until then was mostly found in reports by war planners or in academic texts on geopolitics: asymmetric warfare. It’s the kind of conflict in which one side has far less power and resources than the other, but still manages to score important victories and may even win the war. Al-Qaeda was far weaker than the United States, but by using disruptive tactics and unconventional tools (suicide bombers, box cutters, and jetliners) succeeded in inflicting great damage on its enemy. The increasingly fierce barrage of cyber attacks originating from non-democracies against the governments of democratic nations and their private firms, scientific centers, foundations, and civil-society organizations is a new form of asymmetry for which democratic countries lack effective answers. It’s yet another sign of this imbalance that Russia and China do not have their own Snowden.

Trending on HotAir Video