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Departures Podcast with Ben Buchanan

The proliferation of nuclear weapons during the Cold War in a way served as a deterrent for conflict between nations – the power of these weapons was so overwhelming and the potential consequences of any action so irreversible, it was possible to sustain a long period of détente. But as technology evolved, and micro-aggressions of state-sponsored hacking became the norm, the logic was flipped and we found ourselves with almost no restraint in terms of acts of cyber warfare among nations.

Ben Buchanan, a professor at Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service, joins Robert Amsterdam on this episode of Departures to discuss his new book, “The Hacker and the State: Cyber Attacks and the New Normal of Geopolitics.”

Buchanan argues that we can see just how extensive the hacking wars have gone by examining the details.

“If you are looking for scenarios of planes crashing and cities burning, you miss some of the activities that matter most,” Buchanan says. “This is a book about the stories that actually happened, the events that have shaped global affairs over the last two decades where nations have hacked one another.”

Amsterdam and Buchanan discuss how the lack of policies, treaties, and law to regulate cyber warfare have created a Hobbesian chaotic environment in which unpredictable, dangerous, and costly outcomes become more and more likely.

“I think every nation of a certain degree of sophistication looks at hacking tools right now, and says I can use these to advance my interests, I don’t trust the other side not to use them, and you get into this dog-eat-dog world, in which everyone is continually struggling for advantage in trying to shape the environment, just a little bit every single day, into their favor,” Buchanan says.

“These events are extraordinary ones, but daily ones.”