Defining the Cyber Battlespace



The physical world battle-space is well known and the parameters defined. Similarly an act of aggression or act of war in the physical sense is just as well defined and accepted. That is not the case when it comes to the cyber battlespace. Federal officials, military leaders, policy scholars and security experts are all looking at this issue and struggling to answer the question -- what constitutes an act of cyber war?

Back in 1994 I was asked to define cyber warfare and cyber terrorism. My response happened to end up in the U.S. Army Cyber Operations and Cyber Terrorism Handbook 1.02. Here is what I wrote.

Cyber Warfare & Terrorism is defined as -the premeditated use of disruptive activities, or the threat thereof, against computers and/or networks, with the intention to cause harm or further social, ideological, religious, political or similar objectives. Or to intimidate any person in furtherance of such objectives.

With that in mind we used real world events from the recent Georgian conflict to frame this issue and get your opinion.


The Georgian government relocated their President's website to a sever on U.S soil (in Atlanta Georgia) and connected to the U.S. Internet backbone. Would an attack on the Georgian President's web site (hosted within the U.S.) be considered an act of aggression against the United States and ultimately an act of cyber war?

Yes - is one point of view supported by the fact that the attack is against components of the internet infrastructure owned by a U.S. company and located on U.S. soil.

No - is one point of view supported by the fact that the attack is against the web site that represents an individual/leader of a foreign government.

This is a great opportunity for you the reader to voice your opinion and possibly even influence policy makers in Washington. I would encourage the full review of openly available information that may help you formulate your answer.

-- Kevin Coleman

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