Think Tank (2/2023)
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Hybrid Threats to Submarine Communications Cables, and the use of Digital Technology in Hybrid Conflict
20 Mar 2023

Dr Camino Kavanagh was invited by the Centre of Excellence for National Security (CENS) under its Visitor Programme (VP) to conduct two seminars titled “Hybrid Threats to Submarine Communications Cables, and Mitigation Strategies” and “Use of Digital Technologies in Hybrid Conflict in Ukraine”. Dr Kavanagh is a visiting Senior Fellow with the Department of War Studies at King’s College London, and current member of the United Nations (UN) advisory support team to the Chairs of two UN negotiating processes relating to cyber/ICT and international security (the UN Open Ended Working Group and the UN Group of Governmental Experts). The seminars were held at One Farrer Hotel between 20 – 22 March 2023.

Dr Kavanagh’s first seminar situated submarine cables in a broader, global conversation on system resilience, particularly given societal dependency on such cables for essential services. Noting growing concerns about the vulnerability of subsea cables to state interference or sabotage, Dr Kavanagh outlined a number of challenges with regard to the maintenance and repair of subsea cables, and discussed a range of responses to these challenges, including military, normative and regulatory approaches.

Her second seminar focused on the role of digital technologies in supporting kinetic activity in the Russo-Ukraine War, and Ukraine’s experience in dealing with Russian cyber operations. Acknowledging significant implications for conflict management and resolution beyond the Russo-Ukraine war, Dr Kavanagh noted that the ongoing conflict in Ukraine has sparked valuable lessons for other nation-states, both in terms of societal resilience, as well as incorporating contributions from the private sector.

Both talks were followed by Q&A sessions, and were well-received by the audience. They shone a light on the myriad challenges that states face in their approaches to submarine cable protection and resilience, as well as the important role of digital technologies in modern-day armed conflict, even beyond the ongoing Russo-Ukraine War.

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