Cyber Power

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Full Title of Reference

Cyber Power

Full Citation

Joseph S. Nye, Cyber Power, Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard Kennedy School (2010). Web



Key Words

Botnet, Communications Privacy Law, Hacktivist, Intelligence Infrastructure/Information Infrastructure, Malware, SCADA Systems, Script Kiddie


Power depends upon context, and the rapid growth of cyber space is an important new context in world politics. The low price of entry, anonymity, and asymmetries in vulnerability means that smaller actors have more capacity to exercise hard and soft power in cyberspace than in many more traditional domains of world politics. Changes in information has always had an important impact on power, but the cyber domain is both a new and a volatile manmade environment. The characteristics of cyberspace reduce some of the power differentials among actors, and thus provide a good example of the diffusion of power that typifies global politics in this century. The largest powers are unlikely to be able to dominate this domain as much as they have others like sea or air. But cyberspace also illustrates the point that diffusion of power does not mean equality of power or the replacement of governments as the most powerful actors in world politics.

Additional Notes and Highlights

Expertise Required: Technology - Low; Policy - Low

This paper provides a historical perspective on the geopolitical consequences of the ICT revolution and discusses the differences and similarities of cyberspace with other spaces for state conflicts, such as seas, air.

It then moves on to analyze the power relations between nation states in cyberspace, and the growing power of non-state actors (corporations, smaller-scale/criminal organizations) in the cyberspace, and reflects on the application of laws of wars to cyber conflicts.

"Cyberspace will not replace geographical space and will not abolish state sovereignty, but the diffusion of power in cyberspace will coexist and greatly complicate what it means to exercise power along each of these dimensions." (p. 3)


 Information and Power Diffusion
 Cyber Power
 Actors and their Relative Power Resources
 Google and China
 Governments and Governance