Emerging Issues in Cooperative Security

CISSM is extending the principles and ideas developed as part of the Advanced Methods of Cooperative Security program—for example, how information management practices can help to subordinate traditional practices of active confrontation with collaboration—to a range of emerging security policy issues. Among the issues CISSM has so far addressed are cybersecurity and responses to global climate change.

Cybersecurity. Those who originally designed the Internet could not and did not foresee the pace, scope, and character of its subsequent development. The protocols that are the core of the network were created for transferring files between mainframe computers that it was imagined might number in the hundreds of thousands. The network based on those protocols now encompasses several billion computers most of them more capable than the mainframes of the time.

Despite the Internet’s vital role in the operations of the global economy and the protection of human welfare, no one body or institution has the authority or the ability to exercise decisive control over it. The Internet’s basic transfer protocols were designed to assure personal anonymity and to prevent censorship.  On the whole these practices have been beneficial, but they are not entirely benign. The feature of anonymity has allowed predators of many varieties to operate on global scale and has exposed the global economy to the technical possibility of catastrophic disruption.

It is generally agreed that there is no decisive technical solution to the vulnerabilities that have been created. The implication is that neither passive nor reactive measures can be relied upon to defend critical assets connected to the internet. That judgment has generated systematic preparations by the U.S. military and intelligence community for countervailing offense under a deterrent rationale despite doubt at the top of the U.S. government that the concept of deterrence can be validly applied. There is an evident danger in this situation of highly perverse arms-race dynamics breaking out among the United States, Russia, and China, but there has not as yet been any direct official discussion among these governments about potential cooperative measures to contain that danger. 

CISSM is attempting to develop and circulate an obvious suggestion for protective regulation—namely, the formal prohibition of destructive attack on critical infrastructure assets supported by mutually developed protocols for robust defense. This formulation concedes that military, intelligence community, and most commercial operations, as well as all private computers, would have to protect themselves against illicit intrusion. Because of those exclusions, the suggested arrangement would be only a partial solution to the global problem, but it could provide meaningful protection against the most destructive possibilities and lay the groundwork for more comprehensive cooperation. Successful security regulation has generally begun with partial but meaningful measures.

Climate change. As a consequence of aggregate human activity during the last century, scientists project that during the next century, the average surface temperature on earth will increase to a level not experienced for tens of millions of years—a rate of increase more rapid than in any period on the geological record. CISSM has spent considerable time evaluating how the need for non-carbon emitting sources of electricity to mitigate global warming has increased demand for nuclear energy and advanced nuclear technologies—many of which have dual-use potential—and for cooperative strategies to manage the attendant nuclear risks. For a complete list of CISSM research directed at managing the risks that accompany a global nuclear power expansion, see CISSM’s Nuclear Past, Present, and Future project.

CISSM has also investigated the potential for geoengineering technologies to affect the rate of climate change and has found that in all but a few instances their deployment would pose insurmountable challenges. In the few instances where certain geoengineering technologies are candidates for investigation, their field testing and potential use must be regulated by an independent body with the scientific expertise and representative characteristics needed to weigh benefits, costs, and risks for everybody potentially affected. The principles developed as part of the Advanced Methods of Cooperative Security program could lay the groundwork for this type of investigation.



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