CyCon Session Overviews June 02

Keynote Addresses: 

Thomas Rid discussed his forthcoming book, Rise of the Machines, on the development of interaction between man and machine dating back to the 1940s. He sees three central themes underlying cybernetics. First, we tend to look at the machine through the human experience: machines should think like humans. Second, considering the future of humans through machine enhancement. Third, the concept of ‘virtual space:’ humans can use computers to shape their world. He also stated that mass surveillance is the new cyberwar; the metadata picture is far more confusing than many would think.

Martin C. Libicki outlined why information warfare is an integral part of current conflicts. He envisions a ‘reconvergence’ of military intelligence (ISR), psychological operations (PSYOPS), and electronic warfare as military operations within cyberspace. He believes information collection may be organic and holistic: organic–using purpose built sensors such as satellites or holistic–collecting information that was gathered deliberately by someone else. He identified five characteristics of cyber warfare: 1. Not kinetic 2. Ambiguous 3. Persistence 4. Unpredictability 5. Mutability. From these characteristics, he drew two implications: predictability may be more important than the size of the effect and data mining might be useful in warfare.
Mikko Hypponen opened by saying that war has been a driver of technology. In WWI, we saw nations directly employ technologists to develop better weapons; in WWII we saw the first use of computers to break encryption. The term ‘cyber war’ is often used inaccurately: espionage and theft are conflict and elements of war, but not war in and of themselves. The internet has no geography, and the the power of deterrence is in knowing who has the weapons. At this stage, societies have no way of knowing what capabilities other nations possess: we must develop trust among allies and protect ourselves from those we cannot trust. Thus, the role of government is not only to secure the computers but the things the computers enable. 

President’s Panel

The President’s panel featured a diverse range of experts that discussed many contemporary topics, such as attribution, Russian actions in cyberspace, Snowden leaks, and trust.   There was consensus regarding attribution and the need to continue forward with generating standards to ensure quality while overcoming false impressions.   Nonetheless, difficulties with assured access remains a problem, especially with regards to the balance between physical geography and that of national sovereignty in cyberspace.  Controversial issues included governmental request for access to systems via a backdoor, as well as, the potential benefits of the Snowden leaks.   

Advanced Targeted Cyber-Attacks: The Past, Present and Future

The session emphasized the lines defining real world targeted attacks are blurring and what is known as the Advanced Persistent Threat (APT) might not be so advanced and persistent after all. Many incidents are the result of a human error instead of a technically sophisticated attack. Furthermore, with the proliferation of connected devices, finding new attack vectors is becoming easier than ever. However, this does not mean that the attackers are not becoming more sophisticated. Multi-factor attacks require multi-factor defences, but still needs humans in the loop in order to translate the data between domains. For this purpose, the session introduced Auspex, a novel framework for more effective APT detection.

Cyber Threats and Ways to Respond

This session concentrated on the threats posed by specific actors, on how to raise awareness about cyber threats and explored how states have implemented cyber defence strategies and policies. An efficient cyber communication strategy should not overemphasize fears, but focus on effective and obtainable responses. To increase anonymity extremist organisations will increasingly conduct their operations online as the conventional counter-terrorism measures tighten, although not all extremist organisations decide to engage in cyber attacks.

Anonymity, Privacy, Encryption

This panel featured conversations about anonymous-enhancing networks. There was particular attention paid to the need to watch attacks on these networks, including mobile network protocols and TOR, as these types of attacks will likely continue far into the future. The legality of anonymous enhancing networks was also discussed in relation to EU directives.

Curbing the Cyber Arms Race

The panel discussed how to reduce the potential for a cyber arms race. The relationship between several countries and resulting increase in cyber spending was examined. A methodology was also introduced for accounting for the build-up of cyber capabilities by nation states. A trust-based implementation framework based on conventional arms control was proposed as a solution for the cyber arms race.


These overviews are for informational purposes only. Conference proceedings are available as a publication. Videos and presentations will be published on later in the year. Selected CyCon 2016 Keynote speeches is broadcast live at
Photos are free to use as long as Kristi Kamenik and NATO Cooperative Cyber Defence Centre of Excellecne are credited: