A Silent Spring for Cybersecurity

A Silent Spring for Cybersecurity:
Modelling the Societal Consequences of Cyberattacks

June 2018

Project Leaders

David Farber

Distinguished Professor and Co-Director
Keio University Cyber Civilization Research Center

Bradley Fidler

Assistant Professor of Science and Technology Studies
Stevens Institute of Technology

Project Staff

Tobias Burgers

Project Assistant Professor 
Keio University Cyber Civilization Research Center

What We Want to Do

In 1962, efforts to secure the environment were stymied by secrecy, inaction, and institutional inertia. Neither the private sector nor the government was a willing vehicle of change. Whatever one thinks about her politics, Rachel Carson found a way forward with her book Silent Spring. Carson modelled the risk posed by pesticides, and delivered her findings in accessible and emotionally potent language. She bypassed governments and the private sector and directed her work at the public, and the public acted. What we need for the security of cyberspace, Carson achieved for the environment: a new culture, new industry regulations, and new government institutions (specifically, the EPA).

We propose a Japan-US research group that will model and illustrate systematically the societal consequences of cyberattacks. Our project begins with an accessible report, meant for the public and the media, distributed for free online. First, we model the geopolitical consequences of cyberattacks, using a combination of the Delphi Method and Agent-Based Modelling in International Relations. This will be of great academic value. Next, we use our results to engage the public. Our objective is to galvanize public support for an international response to the cybersecurity threat. To create and maintain leadership in this space, below we outline a three stage program, which begins with this first study, and ends with a Japan-US research center.

How it is Done Today

Governments, firms, and computing technologies are all designed to administer an advanced industrial but not a networked, information-driven society. “Clean slate” research programs and organizational reform all suffer from a lack of buy-in from their government or corporate audiences. The technology-institution quagmire will not be fixed through the lone inventor, research team, or forward-thinking industry or government group. Rather than try to untangle the technology-institutional mess ourselves, we want to demonstrate convincingly what will happen if cyberweapons are used to significant effect.

The project is kicked off in June 2018 and the first invitational meeting will be hosted at Stevens Institute of Technology in August.

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ANNOUNCEMENT
 

2019.5.24

We would like to announce a one-day invitational workshop at the Stevens Institute of Technology, to be held August 3 (Saturday), in Hoboken NJ USA.  The topic is the modeling of the geopolitical consequences of cyberattacks. 

This workshop is the beginning of a larger joint effort by Keio University and the Stevens Institute to systematize our understanding of the risks posed by cyberattacks: specifically, their ability to trigger runaway international crises, such as kinetic and even nuclear conflict. (Some information is available here..) We are bringing together an interdisciplinary group of experts in order to break new ground and consider how we might demonstrate, convincingly, the global path that cyberattacks may take us down. As cybersecurity reform in both industry and government is slow-going, we hope to develop modeling strategies that will instead help energize the public and policy-makers the very real dangers of cyberattacks.