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Global Cybersecurity Expert Eric Botts Tells Attendees “We Are at War”

Addresses World Affairs Council of Greater Houston

On Dec. 7, 2021, the audience at a World Affairs Council of Greater Houston event was listening intently to what Global Cybersecurity expert Eric Botts had to say at his latest talk, “The Geopolitics of Cybersecurity.” The cautionary bottom line from the director of the Global Cybersecurity Program at the University of St. Thomas was “We are at war.” However, since the heavily consequential conflict is taking place within cyberspace, Botts pointed out that the war is invisible.

Cyber Warfare’s Place in the History of Conflict

The assistant professor of UST courses in cyberwarfare, cyberethics, enterprise cybersecurity and digital governance outlined a brief history of the evolution of human conflict. First, he journeyed from the two-dimensional plane (land and sea) to the three-dimensional (air and space) to the fifth domain, cyberspace. Then, Botts set the stage for the conflict, explaining that there are three tier-one powers—the U.S., China and Russia. Tier-two powers would include Israel, Iran, North Korea, and others, such as the U.K. and American allies like Australia, Canada, Japan, France and Germany.

The Global Players and Their Tactics

“Concerning China and Russia, they have distinct targeting strategies and employ different tactics, techniques and procedures,” Botts explained. “China's strategy follows the basic tenets of Sun Tzu's Art of War. Their cyber operations focus on intellectual property theft and data exfiltration from governments, industry, civil society, educational institutions and private research and development all in an effort to ‘know your enemy as you know yourself.’ 

Russia’s efforts focus on disinformation, influencing operations, internet trolling and supply chain attacks. In addition, Russia often utilizes cyber mercenaries to leverage their state-sponsored intelligence assets.”

Botts also discussed ransomware attacks and their negative impact on the global economy. He touched on the business costs caused by intellectual property theft.

Leaders Joining the Conversation

Given the growing awareness of this “war,” he shared that a robust international conversation is taking shape within the United Nations and civil society about norms for cyber behavior and acceptable standards of internet governance. UST has joined this conversation.

Botts’ Presentation Sparked Audience Engagement

“Participants at the event wanted to know how the U.S. can respond to cyberattacks and whether the government has done more than protest such activities,” Botts offered. “I assured them that the U.S. has considerable capabilities and has responded but within the self-imposed limits of proportionality. People also expressed concern about the impact on the global economy and how that might degrade the safety of the internet as a whole.”

Watch for Upcoming Cybersecurity Event

On Feb. 4, 2022, the University of St. Thomas will host a “Cyber Ethics, Privacy and Data Protection” conference. The virtual event will feature not-to-be-missed panel discussions with noted experts. In addition, Eric Botts, serving as panel moderator, will speak directly to the issue of ethics in cyberspace.

About UST’s B.A. in Global Cybersecurity

The Bachelor of Arts in Global Cybersecurity program at UST places the issues of ethics and governance at the forefront of the program. Students learn to balance technical mastery with a solid ethical foundation, which informs the use of technology to benefit the dignity of the human person.