Cyberconflict Within The Context Of Geopolitics

By Hoda Alkhzaimi

The technological prowess of small nations is increasingly recognized as a significant driver of global economic power. This is because technology is a great equalizer; it can enable small nations to leapfrog development stages and compete on a global scale. For instance, the UNCTAD Technology and Innovation Report 2021 highlights that frontier technologies like AI, robotics, and biotechnology have the potential to significantly boost sustainable development, while also posing the risk of widening the digital divide.

Small nations, by embracing these technologies, can foster innovation, improve productivity, and create high-value industries that contribute to global trade and economic growth. Moreover, the digital transformation allows for the democratization of information and resources, enabling smaller economies to participate in markets traditionally dominated by larger countries.

The OECD also emphasizes the role of SMEs in adapting to a more open and digitalized environment, which is essential for inclusive globalization. Therefore, the technological development of small nations is not just about national progress; it’s about contributing to and shaping the global economic landscape. By investing in technology and innovation, small nations can assert their presence on the world stage, influencing global trends and economic policies.

Cyber conflicts have emerged as a significant factor in international relations, influencing the dynamics
of power in the digital age. The Atlantic Council’s Cyber Statecraft Initiative highlights the shift from
traditional deterrence strategies to more proactive measures like Defend Forward and Persistent
Engagement, reflecting the evolving nature of cyber threats. Research published in Armed Forces &
Society suggests that cyber conflicts, termed ‘cool wars’, are reshaping interactions between states,
with denial-of-service attacks and behaviour-changing tactics significantly affecting state relations.
Moreover, the ICRC has raised concerns about the protection of civilians from cyber threats during
armed conflicts, emphasizing the need for legal and policy frameworks to address the digital risks in

The CyberPeace Institute’s analysis of cyberattacks in the context of the Ukraine conflict
provides valuable data on the harm to civilians and the evolution of cyber threats. Additionally, the
European Repository of Cyber Incidents offers an extensive database of cyber incidents, which can
serve as a resource for understanding the scope and impact of cyber warfare. These insights
underscore the importance of cyber capabilities in asserting influence and the need for robust cyber
defence mechanisms to safeguard national security and civilian welfare in the face of digital threats.

The interplay between cyber operations and political power is complex, and as technology continues
to advance, the implications for international stability and power hierarchies will likely become even
more pronounced

The Role of Misinformation and Disinformation in Cyberconflict

Misinformation and disinformation play a critical role in the landscape of cyberconflict, shaping public
perception and influencing the dynamics of geopolitical tensions. A report by Full Fact highlights the
detrimental impact of false information on democratic societies, emphasizing the need for informed
citizenship to combat the spread of such information. Similarly, data from UNESCO underscores the
pervasive risk of encountering disinformation across various media platforms, with statistics indicating
a significant trust deficit in media and an increase in the manipulation of news consumption.

The cybersecurity sector also recognizes disinformation as a substantial threat, with a study by the Institute
for Public Relations revealing that 63% of Americans view disinformation as a major societal issue, and
nearly half of cybersecurity professionals consider it a significant threat to security. These concerns are
echoed globally, as a survey found that over 85% of people worry about the impact of online
disinformation on their country’s politics. The intertwining of misinformation, disinformation, and
cyberconflict presents a complex challenge that requires a multifaceted approach, including media
literacy, regulatory frameworks, and international cooperation to mitigate its effects and safeguard
information integrity.

The Role of Big Tech in Cyberconflict Interplay

The role of big tech companies in cyber conflict is a complex and evolving issue. These companies often
find themselves at the forefront of cyber conflict, whether as targets, mediators, or sometimes even
participants. For instance, during civil conflicts, digital technologies have been used to recruit
followers, finance activities, and control narratives, posing additional challenges for peacemakers.

The explosive growth of digital technologies has also opened new potential domains for conflict, with state
and non-state actors capable of carrying out attacks across international borders, affecting critical
infrastructure and diminishing trust among states. In response to the invasion of Ukraine, big tech
companies played crucial roles in addressing information warfare and cyber-attacks, showcasing their
significant influence during times of conflict.

Moreover, the technological competition between major powers like the United States and China further highlights the geopolitical dimension of big tech’s involvement in cyber conflict. These instances underscore the need for a robust framework to manage the participation of big tech in cyber conflict, ensuring that their capabilities are harnessed for peace and security rather than exacerbating tensions.

Hedging the Risks of Using AI and Emerging Tech To Scaleup Misinformation and Global Cyberconflicts

In response to the growing threat of election misinformation, various initiatives have been undertaken
globally. The World Economic Forum has identified misinformation as a top societal threat and
emphasized the need for a concerted effort to combat it, especially in an election year with a significant
global population going to the polls.

The European Union has implemented a voluntary code of
practice for online platforms to take proactive measures against disinformation, including the
establishment of a Rapid Alert System and the promotion of fact-checking and media literacy
programs. In the United States, the Brennan Center for Justice advocates for active monitoring of false
election information and collaboration with internet companies to curb digital disinformation.

Additionally, the North Carolina State Board of Elections (NCSBE) provides guidelines for the public to
critically assess the credibility of election news sources and encourages the use of reputable outlets.
These initiatives represent a multifaceted approach to safeguarding the integrity of elections by
enhancing public awareness, improving digital literacy, and fostering collaboration between
governments, tech companies, and civil society.

In the ongoing battle against election misinformation, several key alliances and actions have been
formed. Notably, the AI Elections Accord was proposed for public signature at the Munich Security
Conference on February 16, 2024. This accord represents a commitment by technology companies to
combat deceptive AI content in elections. In a similar vein, Meta established a dedicated team on
February 26, 2024, to address disinformation and the misuse of AI leading up to the European
Parliament elections.

Furthermore, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in the United
States took a decisive step by making AI-generated voices in robocalls illegal on February 8, 2024, to
prevent their use in misleading voters. These measures reflect a growing recognition of the need for
collaborative efforts to safeguard the integrity of elections in the digital age. The alliances and
regulations are pivotal in ensuring that the democratic process remains transparent and trustworthy
amidst the challenges posed by advanced technologies.

Media Disclaimer: This report is based on internal and external research obtained through various means. The information provided is for reference purposes only, and users bear full responsibility for their reliance on it. The Cyber Express assumes no liability for the accuracy or consequences of using this information.

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