Picture Source: AUN News
Bhattacharya, A. (2022). Cyber-diplomacy and International Relations: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly. Advocacy Unified Network. https://doi.org/10.57939/NSHH-5853
What was once discussed as the future of diplomacy and international relations has quickly become a common practice between countries worldwide. Cyber-diplomacy, or using computers to communicate with one another instead of traditional means, has taken over much of the world’s political system over the last decade. The concept of cyber-diplomacy has its pros and cons, with each side weighing in on which are most important, but there is no denying that it has helped shape how countries interact with one another on the global stage today.
Cyber-diplomacy has gone from a novelty in the international community to something of a necessity in today’s world, as almost every country has recognized the importance of engaging in cyber-diplomacy with other countries. However, not all countries engage in cyber-diplomacy, and those that do may do so differently. With this in mind, it’s essential to look at the good, the bad, and the ugly of cyber-diplomacy in international relations. Understanding how this is changing the world and what the future may hold for it is relevant.
Why should you care about cyber-diplomacy
The future of cyber-diplomacy is a huge question to ask. Even though countries are using cyber-diplomacy for their own gain, it impacts international relations for all countries worldwide. We are in an age where all aspects of our lives can be found online. Therefore anyone with access to the internet can partake in these impacts. With new threats being created daily in this age of globalization, new developments and implementations of cyber-diplomacy need to happen quickly. As technology grows more ubiquitous around the world, there will be more opportunities for improvements with implementing cyber-diplomacy because it would allow every country with access to take part in discussions related to issues and solutions, whether they have any power or not. Cyber-diplomacy will enable countries to freely express themselves without fear of reprisal because it is anonymous and cannot be tracked. Countries use cyber-diplomacy by trying to recruit others into alliances or spying on other nations so that they can make decisions based on this information. Cyber-attacks pose a severe threat to the security of not only one country but many others. Countries try to get protection from these attacks by having good cyber-defenses such as firewalls, antivirus software, password protection, etc.
Although some might say we do not live in a perfect world and cyber-attacks are inevitable for all countries engaged in cyber-diplomacy. The Future of Cyber-Diplomacy may hold different answers than what we think today. It is possible that, before long, there will be no distinction between physical diplomacy and digital diplomacy due to advancements in technology and connectedness throughout the world. All countries engaging in cyber-diplomacy? Yes! If a government does not engage in cyber-diplomacy, they risk attacks. How are the countries using cyber-diplomacy? They use it to communicate with allies, keep tabs on enemies, and spy on each other. What are the threats of cyber-diplomacy in International relations for countries? Spying poses significant safety risks. Stolen data poses substantial risks to intellectual property rights, and weaponized code presents global risks and insider espionage which poses an extreme threat to national security. Some might argue that Internet penetration rates and rising global connectivity leave no escape from danger regarding cyberspace warfare.
Why it’s a two-way street
As countries become more dependent on information technologies and digital data, so does their need for cyber security. Especially with recent events in Brazil involving Google Maps being hacked. Countries are engaging in cyber diplomacy as a way to combat these threats to not only national security but international relations as well. There is no consensus on how much cyber diplomacy impacts international relations though there are both positive and negative effects. For example, it can be seen as beneficial when two countries use cyber-diplomacy to understand each other’s perspectives better. On the other hand, it can also be detrimental when they engage in espionage against one another or try to sabotage each other’s efforts. It also could be used in some cases of propaganda (i.e., for ISIS) that targets the Western World or those who oppose them.
The possible impacts of cyber-diplomacy vary greatly depending on the country involved and whether they are engaged in the offensive or defensive activity; however, most agree that it affects international relations. Some have found that it creates new opportunities and potential for cooperation, while others find it hard to tell what impact cyber-diplomacy has. It is hard to measure how big of an impact cyber-diplomacy has because many different factors affect the outcomes of international relations, such as economics, military strength, etc. Threats include vulnerability during the conflict, susceptibility after the battle, vulnerability during peacetime negotiations or joint projects, and vulnerabilities from outside interference from third parties and adversaries during the conflict, which may hinder progress between nations working together on a project. Most important is establishing trust between countries to help minimize the risk of harm from third parties like hackers because trust allows people to work together. Cyber-diplomacy becomes even more important when considering its impact on international relations with other actors, including economic actors. According to Rodger Baker, Vice President of Strategic Analysis at Stratfor, the economic sphere will provide both challenges and opportunities for cyber-diplomacy. Specifically, challenges involve stateless actors like terrorists hacking into public companies’ computer systems or acquiring nuclear materials through confidential transactions over the internet. The challenges come from ensuring state governments enforce policies effectively enough to prevent this threat. The opportunities come from business in markets where goods don’t cross borders due to physical limitations.
Advantages & Disadvantages of cyber diplomacy
Cyber-diplomacy is a key component in how countries communicate with one another in diplomatic relations. Cyber-diplomacy positively affects international relations because it offers an alternative communication outlet for governments to use in addition to traditional diplomatic methods. This means that countries do not have to worry about intercepting and reading important messages by unintended recipients. Countries also feel more comfortable engaging in cyber-diplomacy as it does not carry any of the political or social implications that meeting with face-to-face diplomacy does. On the other hand, cyber diplomats do not enjoy the same level of trust as those conducted through traditional diplomatic channels and hence cannot be used for sensitive discussions. Cyber-diplomacy can be misused, which could negatively affect the international relations between two countries. For example, if a country discovers that another country has been trying to spy on them, it may stop engaging in cyber-diplomacy entirely. There is also no guarantee that all information exchanged will remain private, so it can never replace traditional diplomatic channels completely. The vulnerabilities associated with this form of dialogue make it challenging to regulate. It is often seen as risky because it lacks certain protections against malicious actors who seek to disrupt online networks and gain access to secure data.
Furthermore, there is always the threat of hacking, leading to compromised data and stolen identities, both governmental and civilian. Hacking exposes vulnerabilities in software, making attacks easier to pull off. One major threat to cyber-diplomacy is cyber espionage, where hackers steal secret government documents and sell them to buyers. A notable instance was when China hacked into Pentagon computers and stole 614 million personal records, including Social Security numbers. These threats highlight the need for nations’ cooperation to maintain peace in cyberspace. Recently, cybersecurity has become a priority issue for G7 members. Their commitment to cooperate in developing norms of behavior in cyberspace sets out rules that allow states to live peacefully together online while reducing vulnerability risks. Their work seems promising and offers hope for future improvements in cyber-diplomacy and international relations. However, unless people change their behaviors, it will only result in new problems. They should recognize that humans cannot handle everything themselves; we need technology and automation to help us. When these two forces work together, they create a perfect partnership with humans working on tasks requiring higher cognitive skills while AI automates repetitive tasks.
Countries that engage in Cyber diplomacy
Some countries are engaged in cyber diplomacy. They all have different views of how it impacts international relations, how they use it, what the threats are to them, and what the future looks like. The US, Japan, Singapore, and South Korea believe cyber diplomacy increases world peace through collaboration. At the same time, China doesn’t think cyber diplomacy has a good effect on global stability because there is too much room for hacking in computer networks. Threats to these countries include hacking into sensitive information systems and manipulating data remotely without ever being detected, although not all countries are vulnerable to such attacks. The future for those participating in cyber diplomacy appears bright, but like any emerging field of study, there will be hurdles to overcome first. Cyber-diplomacy may improve world peace, but if hackers gain access to top-secret military plans, this could lead to disastrous consequences. Cyber-diplomacy also poses a potential threat to democratic governments as they can manipulate elections or hinder the success of an economy by shutting down power grids, water supply, and other crucial infrastructures. Countries need to increase cooperation with each other and educate citizens about cyber-diplomacy risks so that people are aware and educated about security measures.
Cyber Diplomacy’s benefits would be using cyberspace communication channels to promote human rights messages across borders, which would make a country more transparent with its own citizens and more accountable internationally, eventually resulting in increased trust levels. But no matter how hard one tries with better education, there will always be risks in engaging in cyber diplomacy with another country. The main risk is interference from outsiders, which creates mistrust between countries’ online communications, making them less willing to cooperate at every level. Even though some countries agree with the disadvantages, many still disagree with China’s point of view. These countries feel that cyber diplomacy does indeed help maintain world peace through mutual understanding and avoidance of conflict. With technological advancements in both military and civilian sectors, it’s impossible to stop everyone from gaining access to someone else’s system – but certain precautions can be taken, such as improved education programs which teach students about the dangers posed by cyber terrorism – as well as preventative measures (cyber firewalls) for institutions susceptible to attack. All in all, whether you’re pro or con, cyber diplomacy does hold great promise for improving international relations – however, we’ll have to wait and see how things unfold before we know exactly where we stand.
Three ways to conduct Cyber Diplomacy
1. Establishing communication lines is essential for cyber diplomacy in international relations because it’s hard to establish clear lines of communication through cyberspace.
2. Developing a guideline can be one of the most effective ways to conduct cyber diplomacy, as a country will have a way to define boundaries while staying connected with other countries.
3. Cyber protection and safeguarding are essential because information can’t be protected in cyberspace, so one must practice caution when sending out sensitive information over an unsecured channel. The effect of cyber-diplomacy on international relations varies from country to country, depending on how they use this form of diplomatic engagement.
Countries that don’t use cyber-diplomacy are more likely to get into conflict or wars because they don’t know what their adversary is doing or planning. Nations that do not use cyber-diplomacy are also more likely to fall victim or be manipulated by hacking attacks such as phishing scams and ransomware attacks.
Governments that do not use cyber-diplomacy might think they’re safe without engaging in digital engagement, but that’s not true! For example, North Korea has been accused of conducting sophisticated cyberattacks against its enemies. These types of asymmetric attacks are hard to stop and could cripple a country’s infrastructure if they had no prior knowledge of these types of threats. Another example would be Russia using social media platforms like Facebook to influence voters in the 2016 US presidential election, which has had widespread effects on global politics. These asymmetric attacks are becoming more prevalent in our everyday lives as we spend more time online, meaning countries need to engage in cyber-diplomacy before it becomes too late.
The future looks bleak for countries that neglect to engage in cyber-diplomacy as we live our lives online and more reliance is placed on technology for many aspects of life. It seems as though the threat of cyber-diplomacy won’t go away anytime soon, especially as artificial intelligence continues to grow and become integrated into every aspect of our lives. There needs to be some regulation regarding AI development, so there isn’t a power imbalance between those who create AI and those who control it. I hope my blog post about cyber-diplomacy has given you new insight into this topic area!
Resources on Cyber Diplomacy
The effects of cyber diplomacy in international relations are adverse because countries are creating hostilities rather than building diplomatic relationships. There is more use of state media than trying to use social media, which also has a massive effect on how Cyber Diplomacy works. For example, Russia is banned from some sites like Twitter, Facebook, and even Reddit, which dramatically impedes its cyber strategy. So while Cyber Diplomacy can significantly affect international relations, it can also work against it with minimal support from the US government.
Cyber Diplomacy is a practice in which countries use online tools to connect. While this has some positive effects on international relations, some negatives could happen. Here are some resources you can use to explore this topic in more depth.
1) Rick Riordan (2017) Cyber-Diplomatic Versus Traditional Diplomatic Methods
2) David Duponchelle (2017) Nations must Counter Terrorist Propaganda with Cyber-Diplomacy
3) News 10 Excerpts Russia used Facebook to try to influence the 2016 US election
4) Forbes Quotes China Overtakes US as Global Cybersecurity Superpower
5) Do we have too much cyber diplomacy? There are many different views on cyber diplomacy, such as whether or not it’s suitable for all of us, how countries should use them, etc. Countries want to protect themselves from terrorists but do they think about what happens if their enemy becomes stronger? Countries may be practicing cyber diplomacy, but does it work? What does the future hold for cyber diplomacy?
It’s hard to know what will happen because people may not tell others how they feel about it. For example, if two countries meet and they don’t like each other, then it won’t make them like each other any better. They might say something nice even though they don’t mean it. Or if someone tells someone else something terrible happened to them, then the person who was told might go back to their country and report the wrong thing without telling anyone why they didn’t like them before. For example, maybe one country said another country was involved in terrorism but later found out that wasn’t true, so now the country doesn’t trust them anymore. Another example would be when terrorist groups use social media sites to share videos and messages. Some believe that using cyber-diplomacy is the best way to solve these problems. Others believe we’re seeing an overuse of cyber-diplomacy where diplomats don’t have a chance to create connections through personal contact.
One problem with Cyber-Diplomacy is trusting people because sometimes countries lie about things or say something nice but don’t like each other. Another problem is when terrorist groups use social media sites to share videos and messages and promote propaganda that influences young children – this spreads fear, terror, discrimination, etc., within a country, so eventually, no one trusts each other anymore.
Jenkins, J. Craig. ‘International Organizations.’ Critical Issues in Political Science: A Student Guide to Resources on the Web. Eds. Lynn Neary, Larry Diamond, Edward Jackovics and Thomas Leeper. 4th ed., Palgrave Macmillan US 2013. 95-101.
Jenkins, J.: What is cyber diplomacy? In Computer Supported Cooperative Work 20 (3) 223 – 240 DOI 10.1007/s10606-011-9246-8 Cyber-diplomacy can be defined as accomplishing diplomatic objectives through computational resources (Jenkins).
It is important to note that not all countries engage in cyber-diplomacy or use it properly because this could threaten international relations. For example, North Korea has recently been accused by South Korea of hacking into their computer systems (North Korea Accused). Also, China was suspected of hacking into the Pentagon’s security systems because they could break through them quickly (China Hacking Allegations). In this way, cyber-diplomacy can affect international relations by making countries insecure about who might spy on them or sabotage their system. Countries like Russia, Iran, and Israel have also engaged in cyber-diplomacy, but other countries do not want to reveal what they are doing. Countries such as these may engage in more military activities if there is no fear of retaliation from other states.
A future scenario where cyber-diplomacy will become less relevant would involve computers being replaced by artificial intelligence. As computers become more sophisticated, we may eventually discover how easy it is to hack into the human brain so that cyberspace may be replaced by a purely neural network (Future Scenario).
With increasing dependency on the internet, it seems inevitable that humans will continue to utilize computers for nearly every aspect of life. With this dependence, it becomes clear why cyber-diplomacy should not be overlooked as an alternative way to conduct negotiations across borders. There are many risks involved with negotiating online, including a high probability of impersonation, lack of face-to-face contact, misrepresentation, confusion due to language barriers, reliance on virtual property such as weapons rather than real ones, espionage, and hidden data storage. Despite potential drawbacks, technology still provides benefits in ways traditional negotiations cannot offer (Good Points).
One significant advantage of online negotiating is that people living behind walls or barricades can now easily communicate with that outside, which has positively affected international relationships worldwide. Research suggests that cyber-diplomacy is growing in popularity and usage, with 92% of companies stating that cyber-diplomacy is necessary for success in international business. In addition, it appears as though cyber-diplomacy may help promote global peace by encouraging dialogue between nations. Overall, while there are some dangers associated with cyber-diplomacy, the overall impact of this form of communication on international relationships is positive.
So it’s clear that cyber-diplomacy is an essential aspect of international relations. As with any new form of diplomacy, we need to be cautious about how these actions may have unintended consequences. One upside of this strategy is that a lack of time or geographical constraints means new communication can happen between parties in all locations at any time. Despite some dangers or issues which must be considered with all forms of diplomatic action, this innovative tactic appears to have the potential to strengthen international relations for years to come. It will require careful navigation and transparency to ensure that cyber-diplomacy avoids adverse outcomes and retains its potential benefits. But so far, there are many reasons to be optimistic about what this innovation has already accomplished for world peace. Several governments are taking advantage of this opportunity to engage with each other and their citizens on the subject of international relations. Some governments have also taken advantage of these tools to promote openness and better citizen understanding by publishing information on their countries’ policies via social media websites like Facebook or Twitter. Cyber-diplomacy also offers nations an unprecedented opportunity to establish connections with people they otherwise would not meet, such as those living under oppressive regimes who risk arrest if caught engaging in unauthorized online discussions. Countries like Egypt use cyber-diplomacy to connect more broadly across different cultures through platforms like Google Translate, enabling them to discuss politics without exposing themselves to danger from government repression. China uses this tactic to expand its sphere of influence while avoiding direct military confrontation. And Iran engages in these activities openly despite pressure from sanctions imposed by Western powers seeking to limit the country’s nuclear ambitions. For example, when the United States increased sanctions against Iranian banks in 2010, the regime began urging citizens to use weak currencies like the Rial and Euro instead of hard currencies like US Dollars or Euros.
Furthermore, Iranian leaders found a way around digital restrictions by linking bank accounts directly to individuals’ cell phones. Now Iranians can deposit money electronically into one another’s bank accounts from afar using mobile payments applications like Zong Wallet. They have even created apps for Android phones that allow users inside Iran to access blocked sites, including Twitter and Facebook. But this innovation comes with risks too. Cyber-attacks offer malicious actors opportunities to inflict harm on innocent civilians, businesses, and other governments from afar. Several dozen cases of suspected espionage have been reported in recent years. Hackers now pose threats ranging from identity theft to blackmailing private corporations and high-profile public figures for exorbitant sums of money. Such attacks could endanger diplomatic relationships by introducing distrust among players involved in negotiations, including delegates representing both nations engaged in trade deals or peace treaties and average citizens reading about the news stories surrounding these incidents online. Luckily, experts say that cyber-attacks do not yet pose major threats because perpetrators typically want something tangible out of a successful attack, whether ransom paid or desired information extracted. But as the sophistication of these threats increases, international relations might suffer in response. The future of cyber-diplomacy is not all bad, though. More and more international agreements are being negotiated online, which is likely to continue. To maintain the good, the bad, and the ugly, we must be aware of how cyber-diplomacy impacts international relations.
Author: Arindam Bhattacharya
Chairman, Advocacy Unified Network