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Cashing In on Cyberpower: How Interdependent Actors Seek Economic Outcomes in a Digital World by Mark T. Peters II, The University of Nebraska Press/Potomac Books, US $27.00, Pp280, May 2018, ISBN 978-1640120136

The digital revolution in the last couple of decades has radically changed the world. As the countries become more and more digitally interconnected, policy-makers in the world capitals are abandoning symmetric power strategies in favor of cyber-strategies. Cyber-power has enabled policy- and decision-makers to change actual economic outcomes without the massive resource investment required for military deployment. In Cashing In on Cyberpower, Mark T. Peters tries to answer questions such as why and to what extent state and non-state actors are using cyber-tools to achieve economic goals. An important use of cyber-power is intellectual property theft, espionage to access trade strategies and market manipulation through resource and currency

Mark T. Peters offers eight hypotheses to address this important theme in the light of nearly two hundred cyber-attacks over the past ten years. He also develops new case studies showing the 2010 intellectual property theft of a gold-detector design from the Australian Codan Corporation, the 2012 trade negotiation espionage in the Japanese Trans-Pacific Partnership preparations, and the 2015 cyber attacks on Ukrainian SCADA systems. These hypotheses identify new data and provide a concrete baseline of how policy- and decision-makers in the world capitals use cyber means to achieve an economic goal. With more than twenty years of military and intelligence experience and master cyberspace operator, Mark T. Peters is assigned to Lackland Air Force Base in Texas. He has a Ph.D. in strategic studies.

In recent centuries, nations struggling for increased power over their neighbors mainly sought symmetric advantages, using hard-power techniques to crush enemies through advantages in military force, coercion, and domination. Even in recent years, symmetric hard power was used in US campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan as well as in NATO ventures in Serbia and Libya. Mark T. Peters II argues that cyber means offer an opportunity to pursue both asymmetric and soft-power approaches to assert influence between states. Cashing In on Cyberpower focuses on discovering cyber means and strategies used by state and non-state actors to achieve economic ends over the past ten years. Peters argues that cyber-enabled economic ways can include intellectual property theft to circumvent years of planning and billions in research, espionage to uncover carefully planned trade strategies, or outright market manipulation through resource and currency values. An actor’s goals could be to change economic outcomes without the massive resource investment required for military force deployments.

Peters says that cyber means confuse national power interaction across the global commons through asymmetric flow interruptions and the inherent difficulty in identifying actor influences. These influences range from stealing proprietary data, conducting espionage revealing carefully formulated strategic plans, or initiating a global market panic through value manipulation. Some actors have leaped with both feet into cyber arenas while others are yet to identify where any cyber opportunities exist. Peters argues that one key consideration for future policy makers formulating national strategies will be determining how effective cyber means actually are in influencing various power flows. Traditional states within realist perspectives interact functionally through diplomatic, information, military, and economic means to manipulate outcomes. All functional aspects can be influenced by GCC-originated cyber tools.

Global commons are shared spaces and resources that allow everyone equal access. These are typically air, water, and space, with the relatively recent addition of the cyberspace environment. States are becoming more connected through the global commons and reliant on each other. Peters argues that the theoretical state virtualization tendencies create more channels between states and opportunities for the various players to interact throughout the commons. As states and non-states move toward interdependent frameworks to structure their ends, the theory states military forces will become less important. The rise of these interdependent frameworks for developing strategy means more countries will seek economic and information influences on other actors rather than use physical force to drive others’ decisions. This influence should be evident through state and non-state cyber means usage, a non-military channel, to influence economic power outcomes.

Cashing In on Cyberpower is an important addition to the cybersecurity discourse. Mark Peters’ research in the field of the empirical dynamics of cyber actions in the Global Cyberspace Commons is original and impressive. Mark Peters convincingly shows that states and non-state actors are increasingly using cyber as a means to generate economic outcomes and activities as they run out of other options.  Most importantly, he shows that using cyber means to achieve economic goals is the continuation of war by other means. Scholars and practitioners and students will equally benefit from Cashing In on Cyberpower.

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