Cyber Power

The new world order has become a digital one, and everyone is competing to stay ahead.

By Alexander H. Maurice.

What defines an era in geopolitics? There is no doubt that the increasing digitization of society is one of the most significant forces shaping life in the 21st century, but is it as significant a force in international relations? According to a new book by Adam Segal, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, yes: the world order of the last century has been hacked. The growth of the cybersphere has created new forms of power in the world order. States, corporations, and ideological entities are all struggling to claim their share of this new realm.

In his new book, The Hacked World Order: How Nations Fight, Trade, Maneuver, and Manipulate in the Digital Age, Segal defines this hacked world order as the current situation in international affairs, where states are increasingly invested in the new digital arena. From cyber espionage, theft, and control to propaganda, and, most importantly for Segal, cyberwarfare, international affairs have taken on new dimensions in cyberspace.

For Segal, the hacked world order began between June 2012 and June 2013, which he calls Year Zero, when geopolitical interests reasserted themselves into the formerly ‘utopian’ and borderless world of the Internet. Year Zero marks a turning point in the digital world: there was a global response to the Stuxnet virus, the first time that malware caused physical damage to a country’s critical resource. It was also the year of revelation, when China’s massive spying on the United States government and corporations came to light and Edward Snowden confirmed people’s suspicions when he disclosed the extent to which the American government had been spying on people around the world, including its own citizens, as part of its war on non-state opponents like al-Qaeda.

While Segal’s Year Zero establishes a point of global awareness, it was not a transitionary year by any means. America’s strategic role in designing the architecture of the Internet in its early days led directly to its influence and power today. Likewise China, with its great firewall, had been long improving its control of its national cybersphere. But Segal picked 2012 as Year Zero because …

To read complete articles from the Spring 2016 issue, you must subscribe to our eReader edition.

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