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Peter Singer’s new book, Cybersecurity and Cyberwar: What Everyone Needs to Know, is published by Oxford University Press.
Peter Singer’s new book, Cybersecurity and Cyberwar: What Everyone Needs to Know, is published by Oxford University Press.
8 January 2014

On January 2, Dr. Emanuel Pastreich, director of the Asia Institute, sat down with Peter Singer, director of the Center for 21st Century Security and Intelligence and a senior fellow in the Foreign Policy program of the Brookings Institute. Singer’s research focuses on three core issues: current US defense needs and future priorities, the future of war and the future of the US defense system. Singer lectures frequently to US military audiences and is the author of several books and articles, including his most recent book, Cyber Security and Cyber War (www.cybersecuritybook.com). This is the first in a six-part series.

Peter W. Singer, director of the Center for 21st Century Security and Intelligence and a senior fellow in the Foreign Policy program of the Brookings Institute.Peter W. Singer, director of the Center for 21st Century Security and Intelligence and a senior fellow in the Foreign Policy program of the Brookings Institute.

Emanuel Pastreich: “When you chose to title your new book as Cyber Security and Cyber War did you intend to make a clear distinction between two discrete issues?”

Peter W. Singer: “Cyber security and cyber war are two separate topics that are related in that within the new domain of cyberspace we see an overlap between what we traditionally refer to as the civilian sphere and the military sphere. Cyberspace is evolving as a realm that includes everything from commerce, entertainment and communications to forms of direct conflict. For example, 98% of all military communications travels through cyberspace, but, at the same time, the cyberspace they are channeling over is primarily civilian owned.

“Let us step back and take a look at this problem in proper perspective. For too long the thinking about cyber security questions have been left to what I call the “IT crowd.” That is to say we have a group of technologists pondering cyberspace and its potential. But at this point in time, whether you are a politician, a general, a business leader, a lawyer, a citizen or a parent, those security questions are clear and present for the rest of us as well. We need to understand cyberspace and commit to planning for a future with it at the center.

“The book is structured around approximately sixty central questions concerning the nature and the potential of cyberspace. ‘How it all works? For example, I use the Internet every day, how does it actually work?’ Or ‘What is cyber terrorism?’ ‘I keep hearing about it; is it as bad as some people say?’

“The book then traces the technology back to the ‘who,’ the prominent players in the field and why their dynamics matter. For example, ‘Who is this Anonymous group I keep hearing so much about in the news?’ ‘What is the strategy of the US military for cyberspace?’ ‘What is the Chinese strategy in cyberspace?’

“And then the final third of the book concerns ‘What can we do?’ Those questions range from the personal and organizational to the national, the regional, and the global level. So the book includes everything from how to prevent possible global cyber wars on a massive scale to offering advice on how to protect ourselves and maintain the Internet that we all know, love, and depend on.

“What differentiates this book from my previous books, Wired for War and Corporate Warriors: The Rise of the Privatized Military Industry, is the nature of the debate we are raising. In my previous books whether I was describing private military contractors like Blackwater or the rise of drones, I was trying above all to draw public attention to a new issue of critical importance. For example, when I started working on drones in 2005 it was a new field that called out for attention, for people to realize that drones were real and would matter very soon. In the case of this book on cyberspace, however, the issue is quite different. We all know cyberspace and security is a critical topic. The problem is rather that we simply do not understand it. Not knowing about cyberspace means that we can be taken advantage of. At the individual level we are subject to hackers and false information. And at a higher level, companies and government agencies have profited, frankly, by just making this whole process seem much scarier than it actually is. And then there are the groups that claim to have the “secret sauce,” the “secret recipe” that will solve all the problems of cyberspace. We want to explain cyberspace to people in a manner that builds substantial understanding and also makes for a great read. We include many funny anecdotes, intriguing characters, and jokes that are not found normally in a technology book.”

Continue reading with Part II of the series.

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