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Vulnerabilities and Cyberspace: A New Kind of Crises

In this study, Bibi van den Berg and Sanneke Kuipers from ISGA, explore the ways in which cyber-related incidents may lead to crises

Bibi van den Berg & Sanneke Kuipers
24 February 2022
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While cyberspace has become central to all vital processes in the global economy and people’s social lives, it also carries a wide variety of risks. Framing these risks is no easy feat: Some lead to harm in cyberspace itself, while others lead to harm in the offline world as well. Moreover, sometimes harm is brought about intentionally, while at other times it may be the result of accidents. The “cyber harm model” brings these challenges together and provides an opportunity to get a comprehensive overview of the different types of incidents related to cyberspace.

It also reveals where the biggest challenges for cyber crisis management lie, and it provides a typology of different types of cyber crises that may arise. Cyber-induced crises have characteristics that make them hard to grapple with, for instance the fact that they can be induced remotely and instantaneously at multiple locations. Moreover, cyber crises are not always easily traceable, and sometimes it is difficult to see that the cause of a particular crisis in the offline world is an act in cyberspace. Finally, the borderless nature of cyberspace leads to potential large-scale geographical spread for cyber crises.

Cyber crises also lead to a number of specific challenges for leadership, especially with respect to sense-making, meaning making, decision making, termination, and learning.

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