Introduction Many suggest the cyber arena is new, different and deadly. Kello (2013) argues that cyber tactics increase the range of harm in the international system. Others frequently suggest that conflicts now will originate in the cyber domain and spillover into conventional military conflicts. Our query here is the about the reality of this idea as reflected by evidence. Do cyber incidents launched by states evoke responses from their targets that involve both cyber and non-cyber means, such as economic or military repercussions? If so, is this prevalent? In 2011, the United States government declared a cyber incident similar to an act of war, punishable with conventional military means (White House 2011; Schmitt 2013; Barlow 2013). This could be a significant step, because it allows the response to a non-physical malicious incident in cyber space to be in the physical, kinetic form. Conflict then shifts from cyber space to conventional forms. The US declaration of its willingness to act if attacked in the cyber sphere coupled with its abilities in cyber space revealed by the Snowden leaks could lead to a more dangerous and unpredictable world. Thus these new realities could represent a new direction in the way threats and actions are taken in the international sphere. An article published by Breaking Defense in February 2014 lays out the director of US Cyber Command, Army General Keith Alexander’s thoughts on how to respond to malicious acts in cyber space: “If it destroys government or other networks, I think it would cross that line’ [that would potentially cause America to go to war.]” (Clark 2014). More recently, on April 1, 2015, in the wake of the large-scale breach of the network of Sony Pictures by North Korea (Sanchez 2015),1 US President Barack Obama declared that any actor found to be maliciously acting in cyber space that is deemed a threat to the national security of the United States can and will be retaliated against in the form of economic sanctions (Baker 2015). This includes and is not limited to the freezing of the individuals’ or groups’ assets, the barring of Americans from doing business with these individuals or groups, and blocking these individuals or groups from entering the United States (Baker 2015). Given these fears of cyber spillover conflicts, and the added probability that responses and counter-attacks will be automated in the future, there is a great
danger for cyber issues and events to dramatically alter traditional diplomatic and military interactions. Yet these fears and prognostications must be rooted in evidence and observations given that data and evidence are clearly observable in cyber space. We can imagine many effects from the cyber domain, but the query that remains is the reality of these possible changes in direction in international affairs. The main question we ask in this chapter is whether or not cyber conflict, defined as the use of computational technologies in cyber space for malevolent and destructive purposes in order to impact, change or modify diplomatic and military interactions between entities (Valeriano and Maness 2015a), is leading to conflict escalation in other domains. Do states that launch a cyber action against an adversary risk the chance of retaliation via naval blockade, economic sanctions,or even military maneuvers? Will states that use cyber methods in their toolbox of weaponry also escalate tensions further with more conventional methods? This chapter will review the evidence we have so far and speculate about future actions given our investigation of the recent past.