[ Back to EurekAlert! ] Public release date: 23-Mar-2011
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Contact: David Ruth
druth@rice.edu
713-348-6327
Rice University

'What if?' scenario: Cyberwar between US and China in 2020

Fellow at Rice University's Baker Institute projects what might happen

As Iran's nuclear plant attack and Chinese-based hackers attacking Morgan Stanley demonstrate how the Internet can wreak havoc on business and governments, a new paper by a fellow at Rice University's Baker Institute for Public Policy hypothesizes what an all-out cyberwar between the U.S. and China might look like.

To date, the cyberattacks in East Asia have been relatively benign, said Christopher Bronk, author of "Blown to Bits: China's War in Cyberspace, August–September 2020," published this month in the U.S. Air Force journal Strategic Studies Quarterly. Bronk is a fellow in information technology policy at the Baker Institute and a former U.S. State Department diplomat.

"Web pages are defaced, allegations of espionage are leveled and, generally, a status quo of sorts is maintained. The threat politics of the cyberdomain, however, do not stand still," Bronk said. "China has been deeply impressed by U.S. information dominance since the 1991 Gulf War. China has produced a considerable literature of strategic studies for cyberoperations while developing a national firewall system that shields the country from a considerable portion of Web content.

"The United States, too, has made strategic moves in cyberspace and is in the process of building a Department of Defense cybercommand that will manage the efforts of thousands of civilian and military 'cyberwarriors,'" Bronk said.

With an increasing number of countries around the globe developing military cybercapabilities, Bronk chose to consider how a conflict with major cybercomponents might appear. "Basically, many in the information-security community have been saying either, 'We're in a cyberwar with China' or 'It's time to prepare for a cyberwar with China.' The points I'm trying to make are, first, that cyberwar is not a substitute for real warfare but instead may be a component of conventional or unconventional military action, and second, that there's a great deal of very conventional thinking on this very unconventional topic."

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To read the complete paper and the fictitious scenario, visit www.au.af.mil/au/ssq/2011/spring/bronk.pdf.

To speak with Bronk, contact David Ruth at 713-348-6327 or druth@rice.edu.

More on Christopher Bronk:

Bronk previously served as a career diplomat with the Department of State on assignments both overseas and in Washington. His last assignment was in the Office of eDiplomacy, the department's internal think tank on information technology, knowledge management, computer security and interagency collaboration. He also has experience in political affairs, counternarcotics, immigration and U.S.-Mexico border issues. Since arriving at Rice, Bronk has studied a number of areas, including information security, technology for immigration management, broadband policy, Web 2.0 governance and the militarization of cyberspace. He teaches classes on the intersection of computing and politics in Rice's George R. Brown School of Engineering.

Bronk has provided commentary for a variety of news outlets, including ABC, NPR, the BBC and the Houston Chronicle.

Bronk has a Ph.D. from the Maxwell School of Syracuse University and a bachelor's degree from the University of Wisconsin, Madison. He also studied international relations at Oxford University.

Located on a 285-acre forested campus in Houston, Rice University is consistently ranked among the nation's top 20 universities by U.S. News & World Report. Rice has highly respected schools of Architecture, Business, Continuing Studies, Engineering, Humanities, Music, Natural Sciences and Social Sciences and is known for its "unconventional wisdom." With 3,485 undergraduates and 2,275 graduate students, Rice's undergraduate student-to-faculty ratio is less than 6-to-1. Its residential college system builds close-knit communities and lifelong friendships, just one reason why Rice has been ranked No. 1 for best quality of life multiple times by the Princeton Review and No. 4 for "best value" among private universities by Kiplinger's Personal Finance. To read "What they're saying about Rice," go to http://futureowls.rice.edu/images/futureowls/Rice_Brag_Sheet.pdf.

Since its inception in 1993, the James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy has established itself as one of the leading nonpartisan public policy think tanks in the country. With a strong track record of achievement based on the work of Rice University faculty and the institute's endowed fellows and scholars, the institute conducts important research on domestic and foreign policy issues with the goal of bridging the gap between the theory and practice of public policy. Learn more about the institute at http://www.bakerinstitute.org or on the institute's blog, http://blogs.chron.com/bakerblog/.



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