CyCon met this week in Washington, DC, with an interesting mix of policy, technology, and research presentations. Organized by the US Army Cyber Institute and NATO's Cooperative Cyber Defence Center of Excellence, the conference's theme was the future of cyber conflict.
US Army Cyber Command's Lieutenant General Paul Nakasone's called data "the new high ground, the new key terrain." The conference was very much alive to the way in which conflict has not only moved into cyberspace, but has become pervasively multi-domain.
Much attention was devoted to NATO's Tallinn Manual, the Atlantic Alliance's widely influential guide to international law as it applies to cyber operations. A panel of experts, many of whom had been involved in preparing Tallinn 2.0, stressed a commonly overlooked fact about the Manual: it was developed to expound lex lata, the law as it stands, and not lex ferenda, the law as it ought to be. They saw this as essential to the manual's credibility.
Some of the trends NATO is observing now include not only the familiar Russian influence operations that form an important part of that country's doctrine of hybrid warfare, but of an increase in nation-state attacks against critical infrastructure, and of more signs of (as NATO Cooperative Cyber Defence Centre of Excellence Director Merle Maigre put it) "machines attacking machines."
New America's Peter Singer delivered a keynote on the emerging technologies that are rapidly changing warfare. Call them "revolutionary" or "disruptive," these technological changes will manifest themselves in both hardware and software. Robotics, artificial intelligence, and pervasive connectivity will change warfare as much as the steam engine and the airplane did. This is not a matter of mere think-tank speculation, either—the US Army's leadership has reached the same historically informed consensus.
We'll be posting other coverage of CyCon to these pages.