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Cyberattacks as “state of exception” reconceptualizing cybersecurity from prevention to surviving and accommodating

Sebastian Knebel (Faculty of Communication, Culture and Society, USI Università della Svizzera italiana, Lugano, Switzerland)
Mario D. Schultz (Faculty of Communication, Culture and Society, USI Università della Svizzera italiana, Lugano, Switzerland)
Peter Seele (Faculty of Communication, Culture and Society, USI Università della Svizzera italiana, Lugano, Switzerland)

Journal of Information, Communication and Ethics in Society

ISSN: 1477-996X

Article publication date: 11 October 2021

Issue publication date: 7 February 2022

231

Abstract

Purpose

This paper aims to outline how destructive communication exemplified by ransomware cyberattacks destroys the process of organization, causes a “state of exception,” and thus constitutes organization. The authors build on Agamben's state of exception and translate it into communicative constitution of organization (CCO) theory.

Design/methodology/approach

A significant increase of cyberattacks have impacted organizations in recent times and laid organizations under siege. This conceptual research builds on illustrative cases chosen by positive deviance case selection (PDCS) of ransomware attacks.

Findings

CCO theory focuses mainly on ordering characteristics of communication. The authors aim to complement this view with a perspective on destructive communication that destroys the process of organization. Based on illustrative cases, the authors conceptualize a process model of destructive CCO.

Practical implications

The authors expand thoughts about a digital “corporate immune system” to question current offensive cybersecurity strategies of deterrence and promote resilience approaches instead.

Originality/value

Informed by destructive communication of cyberattacks, this theory advancement supports arguments to include notions of disorder into CCO theory. Furthermore, the paper explains where disruptions like cyberattacks may trigger sensemaking and change to preserve stability. Finally, a novel definition of ‘destructive CCO’ is provided: Destructive Communication Constitutes Organization by disrupting and destroying its site and surface while triggering sensemaking and becoming part of sensemaking itself.

Keywords

Citation

Knebel, S., Schultz, M.D. and Seele, P. (2022), "Cyberattacks as “state of exception” reconceptualizing cybersecurity from prevention to surviving and accommodating", Journal of Information, Communication and Ethics in Society, Vol. 20 No. 1, pp. 91-109. https://doi.org/10.1108/JICES-01-2021-0015

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2022, Emerald Publishing Limited

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