Academic journal article Environment and Planning D: Society and Space

Resilience Governance and Ecosystemic Space: A Critical Perspective on the EU Approach to Internet Security

Academic journal article Environment and Planning D: Society and Space

Resilience Governance and Ecosystemic Space: A Critical Perspective on the EU Approach to Internet Security

Article excerpt

Abstract. Since the European Network and Information Security Agency (ENISA) promoted the image of the Internet as 'interconnection ecosystem', Internet security has been increasingly conceptualised through the language of resilience--the capacity to self-repair. This paper uses performativity and relational space as theoretical lenses to analyse the political effects that ENISA's redefinition of the Internet entails. It argues that the Internet ecosystem is not only used to conceptualise the Internet as a heterogeneous, complex space, but also to legitimise resilience as a new security practice. The first section traces the trajectory of different discursive framings of the Internet as space and introduces the premise of understanding the Internet ecosystem through performativity and relational space. The paper then utilises this framework to conduct an analysis of the Internet ecosystem on the basis of a selection of ENISA's technical and policy documents. It explores infrastructural and political dimensions and discusses their correlated forms of resilience governance. It concludes that the reconceptualisation of the Internet as ecosystem is a highly political move, which also changes the notion of security. If security governance becomes a matter of facilitating distributed self-repair, security is not a state of being protected, which is how we often think about cyberspace, but it is self-made, processual, emergent, and strictly temporal.

Keywords: Internet, security, resilience, ecosystem, European Union

1 The rise of the 'Internet Interconnection Ecosystem'

Ever since the European Network and Information Security Agency (ENISA) promoted the image of the Internet as an 'Interconnection Ecosystem' (1) (ENISA, 2011a), Internet security has been increasingly conceptualised through the language of resilience. Adopted from ecology (Holling, 1973), the term resilience is understood as any action that reestablishes an unsettled equilibrium in complex systems. Network resilience thus refers to a steady state of the Internet, maintaining an acceptable level of service in the face of faults (ENISA, 2009). While resilience is thought to be inherent in networks, the focus of current governance efforts is to understand and strengthen this capacity (ENISA, 2011a). Taking this shift in EU Internet politics as a vantage point, this paper asks: How does the 'Internet ecosystem' affect the understanding of the Internet as space, how does it legitimise resilience as form of organising this space, and what notion of security does this approach imply?

The reconceptualisation of the Internet as interconnection ecosystem, this paper argues, is a highly political move. By redefining the singular concept of cyberspace, originally an offspring from popular culture (Gibson, 1984), ENISA promotes an understanding of the Internet as a heterogeneous space that is governed through resilience. This entails concrete consequences for the politics and practices of Internet security. The Internet ecosystem not only enables ENISA to enact particular resilience policies and suggest the EU as their central facilitator, but also implicates a specific understanding of security and of the way in which security is actualised. Internet security is not the protection, (2) of cyberspace, but in complex, uncertain, and ever-changing environments like the Internet ecosystem, security is an ever-emerging equilibrium: "The equilibrium (if we can call it that) arises from the behaviour of tens of thousands of independent networks, each seeking to maximise its own profits" (ENISA, 2011a, page 36). In the Internet ecosystem, security is thus inextricably linked to insecurity: interconnectivity, decentralisation, and constant evolution create behaviour that is hard to predict and vulnerabilities of cascading failure (ENISA, 2011b). Not only does this limit abilities to evaluate problems and prevent failure (Dunn Cavelty, 2007), but the ecosystem's conceptual link to complexity promotes the idea of insecurity and vulnerability as system-inherent (Duffield, 2012; ENISA, 2011a; 20lie). …

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