Decoding the Digital Debate

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Friday, March 31st, 2017

Friday, March 31, 20179:00AM - 5:30PMBloor - 1st floor Boardroom/Round Room/Library, Munk School of Global Affairs
315 Bloor St. West
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The digital realm is wired into our everyday lives. While the internet has offered information liberation, economic opportunity and increased global connection, our reliance on it exposes us to threats from state and non-state adversaries. Opinions on these threats are widely debated: some believe a Cyber Pearl Harbour is imminent, others argue there is current cyber threat inflation. On the civilian side, there exists a tug-of-war between the right to privacy and domestic surveillance.
The Digital Debate is a highly contested arena, untangling the conflicting theoretical and practical debates requires thoughtful input from all sectors across each discipline.
As states work to navigate various legal and normative frameworks in cyberspace, comprehension on the various challenges is necessary. This one-day event will bring together actors from academia, think tanks, government, private sector and civil society to engage on topics from cyber war and state censorship of information to international law.

9:00am – 9:25am Breakfast
9:30am – 11:00am PANEL 1
11:05am – 11:15am Break
11:20am – 12:50am PANEL 2
12:55am – 1:40pm Lunch
1:45pm – 3:15pm PANEL 3
3:20pm – 3:30pm Break
3:35pm – 5:05pm PANEL 4
5:10pm – 5:20pm Concluding Remarks
5:30pm – End of Event

The digital debate is a crowded space with contributors from each sector and discipline shaping emerging narratives. In evaluating the potential for cyber war, opinions vary greatly between imminent threat and unlikely skepticism. Media coverage can, at times, be sensationalist. The high technicality of cyberspace and computer networks leaves little room for general public expertise. Yet, productive policymaking regarding all areas – from education and business to security – requires cooperation. This panel will comb through the myriad of voices contributing to the field and attempt to identify points of intersection, which may be capitalized for greater collaboration.

Computer networks and infrastructure are vulnerable to attacks and intrusions by people and organizations across entirely different jurisdictions. Some claim that attributing these cyber attacks are difficult due to the technical nature of cyberspace, others argue that a lack of political will is the true obstacle. The military and intelligence communities are constantly concerned that adversaries can penetrate nuclear command, control, and communication systems, and policy-makers worry that hackers can shut down entire city grids. Many argue that cyber offense dominates cyber defense due to the numerous vulnerabilities in computer networks and critical infrastructure. This panel will attempt to address these technical complexities and seek to find ways in which computer networks and infrastructure can be more resilient to attacks and intrusions.

There are significant challenges facing the balance between government surveillance and use of data analytics and a citizen’s privacy and civil liberties. Digital whistleblowers have provided a platform for increased public knowledge on government intelligence operations. At the same time, not all governments use the Internet or information technology for good. Non-state actors, like ISIL, continue to use online networks for recuritment and information campaigns. This panel will hear from a variety of voices on the balance between national security and civil liberties.

Concerns over how states interact with and exploit each other’s software and cyber infrastructure have been around since at least the 1960s. From deterrence to cooperation, disagreements in international relations theory and practice about cyber security grow stronger, as progress in understanding the best path forward becomes weaker. On the legal side, understanding how domestic laws apply to cyber security is a difficult task for any state internally, understanding how a state’s cyber actions are governed by international law is even more challenging. This panel will explore the current theoretical and practical gaps in the cyber debate within international relations and evaluate the international legal frameworks applicable to cyberspace.

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