The new US administration has begun efforts to securitize the substantial problems the United States is currently facing in cyberspace. Recently, President Obama ordered his National Security Council to conduct a rapid review of existing measures being undertaken by the federal government, and provide recommendations for additional ones. Many stakeholders in the US government and private industry are watching these actions closely as there seems to be broad acceptance that the issues call for more extensive security measures. However, many issues will complicate effective securitization of threats in cyberspace. For example, not all stakeholders agree on the priorities or where the focus of security measures should be yet cyber security is a “trans-sovereign” issue affecting both developed and developing countries in an interdependent manner.
Because actors in cyberspace enjoy relative anonymity and can threaten interconnected targets around the globe, there is considerable debate as to whether the concept of borders is relevant to the challenges of cyber security. Regardless the focus of the debate, the concept of borders is important because they define the territory in which national governments can employ sovereign measures. To analyze borders in the context of cyber security, this paper asks the question, “Is there an important role for the concept of borders, if not physical lines, in improving national security in cyberspace?” To explore the question, the paper takes two approaches. The first is a comparison of the cyber security issues to international drug trafficking in an effort to explore how sovereign measures used to combat drug trafficking may be applicable to improving cyber security. The second approach is an examination of the issue from the perspective of the Heal and Kunreuther Inter-Dependent Security Model with an attempt to inform the cyber security decision process of national governments as they consider options to invest in a higher level of security.
The paper will argue that, whether the problem is addressed from the standpoint of criminal behavior like drug trafficking, or cyber attacks in an interdependent, global domain, borders can be a potentially useful construct to address cyber security issues and inform national policy decisions, regardless of the physical location of relevant nodes. However, sovereign powers must be careful not to use the concepts of borders to curtail the progress our nations have made to connect and better the world via this evolving and expanding environment.