Cyberspace and Geopolitics: Assessing Global Cybersecurity Norms

This week I want to discuss Carnegie Endowment for International Peace’s article, Cyberspace and Geopolitics: Assessing Global Cybersecurity Norm Processes at a Crossroads. In the article, several weaknesses of the current ‘cyber norm’ were discussed, including lack of transparency regarding state behavior (inability to measure norms), lack of clear incentives for creating and adopting norms, and lack of international cooperation. The article goes on by offering solutions to the abovementioned inabilities of the current status of what the ‘cyber norm’ is, including increased research to measure alignment with common behaviors in cyberspace, creating a shared global database of cyber processes, researching efforts of incentive identification, and enforcing multi-stakeholder engagement in both identification and operation of various cybergroups (civil, industry, military, etc.) (Hollis, Ruhl, Hoffman, & Maurer, 2020).

I must admit that I had difficulty comprehending what the article was trying to prove, as many of the facts the authors used were merely speculations on what is currently accepted as the ‘cyber norm.’ After a few different read-throughs, I finally understood that this speculation and method of describing the purpose of the article was precisely intended, a study on how little we really understand cyberspace, including various countries’ laws, policies, and interactions with the often-cloudy cyber landscape. Identifying ‘cyber norms’ is practically impossible due to the Internet’s fast growth and always-evolving threats and technology. As there is no one answer to, for example, how to secure a specific organization using a ‘cookie cutter’ approach, it makes sense to perform research into what exactly is ‘normal’ in cybersecurity (Hollis, Ruhl, Hoffman, & Maurer, 2020).

For instance, understanding a single cyberattack is quite frankly, similar to solving a murder investigation in a land unknown to the investigator, such as an undiscovered region in a land far away, so to speak. Many factors come into play that will not have answers to, such as the lack of data on the region, similar to how a new cyberattack’s investigation might as well have the investigators blindfolded trying to find clues to the attacker’s identity. Without knowing and understanding what the attack is, why it occurred, how the attack differs from typical operations on the system, and what the attacker could possibly gain from the intrusion, can we, as cybersecurity professionals, begin to build our defenses in the hopes of preventing further similar events.

After reading the article several times, I still do not fully grasp how it pertains to this week’s readings, other than expanding my own thought process while navigating the digital frontier. As we all know, the Internet is nothing but a free-flowing river spiraling through the mountains, often encountering narrower paths, running into obstacles, and even dealing with human-made interruptions and bypasses to divert the flow elsewhere, such as for farming. While it sounds odd, this thought process seemed to turn on a lightbulb in my head as I began to think of cyberattacks I have encountered in my career as this stream. For the first time, I saw the true origins of the attacker’s designs. If we, as a species, ever desire to reach the goal of peace on a global scale, we first need to define our cybersecurity norms. In other words, we need to collectively agree on what the environment the stream is in, what we want to do with it, and how we can all responsibly use it.


Hollis, D., Ruhl, C., Hoffman, W., Maurer, T. (2020, February 26). Cyberspace and geopolitics: Assessing global cybersecurity norm processes at a crossroads. Retrieved February 16, 2021, from

Categories: Security

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