Year of Publication: 2013
Page Numbers: 252-261
Authors: Miguel Alberto Gomez
Conference Name: The Second International Conference on Cyber Security, Cyber Peacefare and Digital Forensic (CyberSec2013)
- Malaysia


The increase in frequency of cyber attacks launched against the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) regional bloc that have been attributed to the People’s Republic of China (PRC) sets a precedent for the future of low impact cyber conflicts. While the calls for mutual defense of cyberspace and regional cooperation have been highlighted in the ASEAN ICT Masterplan 2015, conflicting interests between members and the nature of the ASEAN principles suggests that any eventual cyber defense policies can only be framed within the context of individual state interests. This lack of cohesion paves the way for low impact cyber attacks that, while not targeting critical infrastructure, can enable the aggressor to influence the different instruments of national power within the region and serves as a viable tool to project power and influence with minimal risk of escalation as opposed to traditional approaches. While this moves against the current predictions that suggests targeted and debilitating attacks aimed at crippling critical infrastructure, the lack of instances of such lends weight to the assumption that these are unlikely for the time being. On the other hand, the recent events that have taken place in the ASEAN bloc has shown that the PRC has, and continues to, utilized low impact cyber attacks. By taking advantage of the problem of attribution coupled with the lack of knowledge regarding its true cyber capabilities and the threat of kinetic retaliation, the PRC has found itself able to operate freely. This study aims to discuss how the PRC has adopted this strategy in response to recent disputes with members within ASEAN, in particular, the Republic of the Philippines. The paper highlights the low impact approach that the PRC has chosen as a means of exerting its influence in ongoing disputes with the Republic of the Philippines and to a greater extent, the rest of the region. The study discusses the underlying factors that allow the PRC to operate freely by taking advantage of the fundamental weaknesses of ASEAN as a platform for establishing a cyber defense mechanisms within the region and goes on to caution as to the long term repercussions of such.