@gdonovan: #NSA director @ #hacker conference: “In this room is the talent our nation needs to secure cyberspace” #cyberdominance

The Informational is Spatial: Understanding the Geoeconomics of Cybersecurity in Youth Environments

On Tuesday, 02/28/2012 @ 4PM, I’ll be presenting “The Informational is Spatial” at the Association of American Geographers’ paper session on “Geographies of Surveillance and Security 3: Data, Discourses, and Affects” (session organized by David Murakami Wood and Steve Graham).

Location: The Hilton New York, Second Floor, Sutton Parlor South.

Abstract: As cyberspace expands within young people’s everyday environments, so too does a geoeconomic conception of cybersecurity. My ongoing participatory action research project,, involved a team of youth co-researchers in investigating the production, circulation, and consumption of their personal data in order to collectively address larger questions of privacy, property, and security under informational capitalism. Of specific interest were how the material forms and social practices of proprietary digital environments such as Facebook and Twitter link up with the emerging U.S. war doctrine of cyberdominance. I discuss U.S. cyberdominance as a geoeconomic manifestation of security that aims to reframe a global cyberspace as a component of U.S. territory. Informational flows, from the global to the intimate, are thus cast as matters of national security that must be managed through a plethora of digital enclosure and surveillance mechanisms that are intimately experienced by U.S. youth through their routine participation in proprietary digital environments. Further, despite the “newness” of digital enclosure and surveillance I argue that these mechanisms are rooted in historical processes of environmental control and presuppose a geoeconomic logic of privatization and segregation already operating in our urban environments through strategies such as zoning, gating, and CCTV. I will conclude with a discussion of how the project’s development of its own open-source social network site served as a methodology for understanding the various forms of geoeconomic cybersecurity that become objectified, internalized, reworked, and/or resisted through young people’s everyday engagements with and within proprietary digital environments.


Welcome to the informational: where jailbreaking your iPhone is a threat to national security, the global dominance of Goldman Sacks depends on government-based policing of proprietary trading code, and WikiLeaks is a thermonuclear device.

From the transcript of Andrew Marr’s interview with Mark Stephens (WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange’s lawyer):

ANDREW MARR: Now another thing that we read today is that he has a file, a further file of even more damaging and explosive information which he is keeping as a kind of insurance policy.

[ . . . ]

MARK STEPHENS: Well I think the problem is that they have been the subject of the cyber attacks, they’ve been the subject of censorship around the world and they need to protect themselves, and this is I think what they believe to be a thermonuclear device effectively in the electronic age. (emphasis added)

The nouns may change but the verbs stay the same.

-UPDATE 12.09.2010 @ 11:25AM-

In a Washington Post OpEd, the neocons at the American Enterprise Institute ratchet up the WikiLeaks/WikiWeapon rhetoric (h/t IGP Blog):

Like the war on terror, we have been attacked in this new cyber war in ways we did not anticipate . . .

. . . He recently announced through his lawyer that if he is arrested, he will unleash a “thermonuclear device” of completely unexpurgated government files. Think about that: Assange has threatened America with the cyber equivalent of thermonuclear war . . .

. . . If WikiLeaks is treating this as a war in cyberspace, America should do the same. The first step is to rally a coalition of the willing to defeat WikiLeaks by shutting down its servers and cutting off its finances . . .

. . . Governments that provide WikiLeaks with virtual safe havens should be told in no uncertain terms: “You are either with us, or you are with WikiLeaks.” (emphasis added)

From the same people that championed the Iraq War before there was a 9/11: You are either with us, or you are against us with WikiLeaks.

Securing Cyberspace in 60 Minutes

This past Sunday, 60 Minutes did a segment on cybersecurity titled “Cyberwar: Sabotaging the System.” The segment mostly focused on the “new” national security issues that cyberspace presents, while barely discussing how many of these “new” cybersecurity issues are — at least in part — caused by traditional social engineering. One example being 60 Minutes’ discussion of how CENTCOM‘s networks were infiltrated by an unknown foreign entity that was able to monitor and record all of CENTCOM’s network activity. A serious security breach, but one that is believed to be caused by modified flash drives that were left in physical areas where U.S. military personal would pick them up and use them. When these flash drives were inserted into a CENTCOM computer, it’s believed they unleashed a code that opened a backdoor to the network that allowed the foreign entity to spy.

The most interesting interview from the segment was with James Andrew Lewis of the Center for Strategic and International Studies. Towards the end of his interview, Lewis offered an excellent explanation of why the U.S. has come to see cyberspace as a matter of national security and of how U.S. cyberdominance is being rationalized:

. . . if you talk to the Russians or the Chinese they say “how can you complain about us when you do exactly the same thing?” It’s a fair point, with one exception. We have more to steal. We have more to loose. We’re the place that depends on the Internet, we’ve done the most to take advantage of it. We’re the ones who have woven it into our economy, into our national security, in ways that they haven’t. So, we are more vulnerable.

The quote reveals an odd contradiction: “We” are repeatedly told by governments, corporations, and various individuals that weaving the Internet into our environment will bring more security – at the same time “we” are told by those same actors that weaving the Internet into our environment makes us less secure.

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