Ideology and Cybersecurity: Explaining the Origin and Structure of Civilian Cyber Defense



Frank Smith, Centre for International Security Studies; Department of Government and International Relations, University of Sydney

Date and Time

January 7, 2016 3:30 PM - 5:00 PM


Open to the public.

No RSVP required


William J. Perry Conference Room
Encina Hall, Second Floor, Central, C231
616 Jane Stanford Way, Stanford, CA 94305

Abstract: Cybersecurity depends heavily on civilian cyber defense, which is decentralized, private, and voluntary. Although the structure of this field stands to have a profound impact on national and international security, its history is rarely subject to critical or comparative analysis. Why is civilian cyber defense organized this way? There are at least three plausible explanations for the origins and evolution of cyber defense as an organizational field: technology, bureaucracy, and ideology. I examine the influence of each factor during the formative years of the Internet in the United States. From the beginning, malware was described in terms of infectious disease (viruses and worms), so I use public health to provide comparative context for cyber defense. I find that technological determinism explains far less about the genesis of this field than often assumed. Bureaucratic politics are also insufficient. Therefore, I argue that the American ideology of anti-statism is necessary to explain civilian cyber defense, and this family of ideas has important implications for security cooperation at home and abroad.

About the Speaker: Frank Smith is a Senior Lecturer with the Centre for International Security Studies and the Department of Government and International Relations at the University of Sydney. His teaching and research examine the relationship between technology and international security. His book, American Biodefense, explains why the U.S. military struggled to defend itself and the country against biological warfare and bioterrorism. His current research examines cyber security cooperation; he is also analyzing the potential impact of quantum computing on international relations. Previously, Smith was a visiting scholar with the Institute for Security and Conflict Studies at the Elliott School of International Affairs, a research fellow with the Griffith Asia Institute, and a pre-doctoral fellow with the Center for International Security and Cooperation at Stanford University. He has a Ph.D. in political science and a B.S. in biological chemistry, both from the University of Chicago. 

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