Deterrence in cyberspace

The World Politics review piece talked about how the US must change its cybersecurity strategies in order to stay relevant and aggressive to its adversaries. The US is not approaching cyberspace or cyber security like its ‘enemies’, which is part of their problem. The article used China as an example, citing that their intentions with cyber espionage are the same as the US, therefore its easier to predict their actions/motives behind their actions. In other words, they do not possess a secret agenda (that we know of)- Chinese hackers are more concerned with business deals and intellectual property theft. However, Russia’s cyber behavior is much more complex, therefore perplexing to the United States. Russia intends to create noise (to hide the signals), and create confusion that can influence opinions in Washington (re: the election). It is crucial for the US to understand their cyber enemy and its behavior, and shape its own strategy in order to better combat future situations.

This seemed very similar to deterrence theory, and how in last class we talked about deterrence not working in cyber space because the stakes were different/actor’s actions were unpredictable. The main issue that Singer/Friedman found with deterrence in cyber space was that it was difficult to pinpoint the actor, and the balance of retaliation was less black and white than it was in the cold war- where the end result was only MAD.

I found this article helpful in debunking certain myths attributed with cyber security/deterrence theory. It helped to distinguish how cyber and nuclear deterrence were similar, and they could learn from each other. The article disagreed with an argument from the reading, that while there exist state structures for cyber governance; they seem to be irrelevant.

“Legal norms may actually have an impact on deterrence. The Tallinn Manual and the Budapest Convention have fostered some basic norms.  While it is true that not all cyber actors will always adhere to these norms, they still can form a foundation for deterrent activities by cooperating states”

Cyber power/their ultimate consequences are actually similar to nuclear power in that both are unpredictable in both growth and impact, as well as the ability for humans to control them. I think deterrence will eventually become a useful tool in harnessing cyber control and authority over violent actors in cyber space. It is impossible to predict what the consequences would be in a cyber attack, and how/if governments would be able to retaliate effectively.





One thought on “Deterrence in cyberspace

  1. Hey Katelyn! Some really interesting points in regards to cyber deterrence and its relationship to nuclear deterrence. I wonder if it would be more helpful if norms developed specifically in how states should react to cyber attacks. If major powers came together and said that they would do specific things in response to cyber attacks, this could be much more effective than simply signing legal agreements such as the Budapest Convention that you mention in your article.


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