Technological Threat Attribution, Trust and Confidence, and the Contestability of National Security Policy

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The world has been asked to believe that China is a source of cyberthreat and that Russia is meddling in U.S. elections. Western populations are being asked to trust the words of intelligence agencies and world leaders that these unspecified technological threats are real. The oftenclassified nature of the threat results in governments not being able to provide the public with an evidence base for the threat attribution. This presents a social scientific crisis where without substantive evidence the public is asked to trust and have confidence in a particular technological threat attribution claim without any further assurance. It is sensible for the public to ask whose security claim should be believed and why? Likewise, it seems a critical social responsibility for security policy makers and academia to first acknowledge this conundrum and then strive to develop frameworks to better understand the trust and confidence challenges around technological threat attribution. This talk draws on New Zealand as a sociological case study to illustrate where and if a technological threat attribution and trust and confidence challenge might be evident in the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet’s 2018 National Cyber Strategy refresh and the New Zealand Defence Force’s 2018 Strategic Defense Policy Statement. This case study is used to sketch out a broader project focusing on how the contestability of national security strategy and government security discourse can present specific trust and confidence challenges for both the public and government, and how we might begin to address these challenges