‘Cybersecurity’ and Why Definitions Are Risky

Computer screen. Image: hackNY.org/Flickr

On November 7, the Swiss Chairmanship of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) held a conference in Vienna  on confidence-building measures for cybersecurity. The event built on several positive international developments last year, including a bilateral agreement between the U.S. and Russia and the member states of the OSCE to adopt “an initial set of OSCE Confidence-Building Measures (CBMs) to Reduce the Risks of Conflict Stemming from the Use of Information and Communication Technologies.” Last week’s conference sought to promote the implementation of the latter and further negotiations. This includes a recent study commissioned by the Swiss Government, and available at the Global Cyber Definitions Database, which offers a compilation of existing cybersecurity-related terms in order to shed light on these differences. » More

We Need to Fix the Way We Talk about National Intelligence

CIA memorial wall. Image: Wikimedia

This article was originally published by The Conversation on 10 October 2014.

In the last few years, the list of sensitive government information made public as a result of unauthorised disclosures has increased exponentially. But who really benefits from these leaks?

While they are media catnip and provide useful information to hostile individuals and organisations, they only occasionally contribute to the public debate on intelligence and truly advance the cause of democracy.

A scoop on the secret world of espionage is a guaranteed journalistic coup. And with good reason; at the simplest level, news exposures of intelligence service activities inform the public and contribute to a self-evidently important public debate on the role of intelligence in modern democracies. » More

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Emerging Technologies: Security and Regulatory Concerns

Image: jurvetson/Wikimedia

Scientific research is no stranger to the battlefield. Technological breakthroughs have often started off in military research labs or prompted by military funding. The trend caught momentum during the Cold War when the superpowers on both sides of the Iron Curtain delegated researchers and huge budgets to the development of technologies of war, space and ocean exploration. » More

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Is Terrorism an Effective Tool for Obtaining Territorial Concessions?

Image: Menendj/Wikimedia

This article was originally published by SIPRI on 7 July 2014. This blog post is published as part of a collaborative partnership between SIPRI and Economists for Peace and Security (EPS).

Terrorism is an important but complex issue that affects many countries. While we have a good understanding of the determinants behind terror campaigns, very little attention has been paid to the question of whether terrorism is an effective strategy for coercing the targeted country to grant political and territorial concessions. The lack of research is surprising, given that the answer to this question is critical to understanding why terror exists at all, and why it appears to be increasing in many parts of the world. » More

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Addressing the Foreign-Fighter Risk: a Role for Financial Intelligence?

Free Syrian Army fighters in Idlib, courtesy of Freedom House/flickr

The participation of foreign fighters in the Syrian conflict is a growing concern, particularly among Western governments that are not only struggling to track the movement of their citizens, but are also fearful that those travelling to the conflict may become radicalised and return home with their extremist ideology. Recently, a UK Parliament Home Affairs Committee enquiry into counterterrorism heard from a range of experts how returning fighters pose a statistically significant risk to the security of their home countries. Research published by Thomas Hegghammer also suggests that perhaps one-in-nine foreign fighters from the West might perpetrate attacks on their home countries once they return.

In addition, several studies have been undertaken that seek to estimate the number and nationality of these foreign fighters. Consensus suggests that there are over 10,000 such fighters in Syria, with as many as 2000 (and rising) coming from Western Europe. A number of these have already died in battle or, as in the case of Briton Abdul Waheed Majeed, acted as suicide bombers. Yet, while there is certainly no suggestion that all those returning from the conflict will be radicalised, the West’s limited knowledge as to who travels and returns from Syria is alarming. » More

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