The Social Side of ‘Cyber Power’? Social Media and Cyber Operations
Proceedings of the 8th International Conference on Cyber Conflict
16 Pages Posted: 5 Jul 2016 Last revised: 30 Sep 2016
Date Written: May 1, 2016
Evaluating an actor’s ‘cyber power’ is an inherently complex problem involving a laundry list of military, normative, and technical variations. However, one important but under-theorised factor is the relationship between military social media operations and cyber operations. Policymakers, journalists, and even some academics often treat social media activity as a proxy variable for an actor’s latent technical proficiency and even cyber capability, in other words, its cyber power. Actors that are extremely successful at engaging in social media activities are assumed to be technically proficient and even capable of engaging in cyber operations. This paper argues that an actor’s social media use is a poor proxy for its technical and cyber security competency. In fact, under certain conditions social media activity may actually magnify the vulnerability of that actor. This paper synthesises cross-disciplinary research from strategic studies, political science, and technologists to develop a theoretical framework for better understanding the role of social media in cyber operations. It outlines the similarities and differences between social media and cyber security, and categorises different military social media operations into three types: information-gathering (IGMO), defensive social media operations (DeSMO), and offensive social media operations (OSMO).
Keywords: Future threats, Situational awareness, Data/information as power, International norms and governance, Information operations
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