Cyber warfare – trust is good … “kontrolle noch besser”!

2aces_wlIf anyone still nurtured cozy illusions about friendship and fair play between nation states, then 2013 marks the year where these last politically challenged students, at the back of the class, finally got it. As was stressed in “Success 101”: In life you don’t get what you deserve, you get what you negotiate. That goes for sovereign nation states, businesses and individuals all alike. But if you walk up to a negotiation table where the other party already knows what cards you’re holding, you’re not even going to get what you deserve – you’ll get trashed!

The only surprising thing about the revelations of the US spying on world leaders and very likely on as many corporate CEOs as they can, is that they got caught! Make no mistake: Barack Obama hasn’t yelled at K. B. Alexander – the head of NSA – for tapping into Angela Merkel’s phone but for being sloppy with data security!

The fact is: All the talk about global markets being good for everyone fail to mention that unless your leaders are apt at the negotiation tables, it might well be better for some and not-so-great for others. And you don’t want to be counted among the “others”! Politicians and business leaders involved have a crystal clear understanding of this. It therefore goes without saying that the old SAS “7 p’s” adage (Proper Planning and Preparation Prevents Piss Poor Performance) is applied: Gather as much information about the other parties negotiation position, strategy and arguments as possible. Before going into the ring. And why not implement such best practices to their fullest?

The Germans make no bones about this themselves: In their official and public parliamentary proceedings they note with satisfaction that their cyber warfare unit had “achieved operational offensive capabilities”.  That was in 2008. The British are also perfectly explicit about their reasoning: The charter for their Cyberspace “security” arm includes this verbiage:

Our vision is for the UK in 2015 to derive huge economic and social value from a vibrant, resilient and secure cyberspace, where our actions, guided by our core values of liberty, fairness, transparency and the rule of law, enhance prosperity, national security and a strong society.

Now, anyone who can’t pick out the keywords and gloss over the “fairness, transparency and rule of law” blurb, should be sent back to school. It’s all about economic growth. To your clan first, less so for the others. Jobs, market access (for your businesses into their markets, not so much the other way around), competitive edges and fairness (slightly skewed to your advantage of course).

WW-III is in full swing. In cyberspace. It is not about land but about money. It’s about the standard of living for your kids, about being able to pay the invoices for all the entitlements, about healthcare and schools. You’re not going to get drafted and your’re not in any danger of getting shot. But if your clan looses too many marbles at the negotiation tables, you and your kids are soon going to look back at the current gloomy economic outlook with a nostalgic tear in your eyes.

The question is: This being fought in cyberspace, can the smaller clans hold their own against Goliath’s like the USA and China? Fighting in cyberspace might be less about the number of boots “on the ground” and more about being nimble, smart and creative. And about keeping your cards face-down on the table (something Alexander forgot in a moment of awe over the sheer power of his brute force organization).


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