The "Korean" Cyber Attacks and Their Implications for Cyber Conflict

  • Oct 23, 2009

    Topics discussed in the paper:

    When does a cyber attack become an act of war?

    Deterrence in cyberspace

    Norms and thesholds

    Political constraints on cyber attack

    Non-state actors in cyberspace

    Among the major points made by the paper:

    • Uncertainty in attribution, collateral damage, and effect, is the key feature of cyber conflict.
    • Cyber conflict is shaped by implicit norms and thresholds.
    • Militaries now have the capability to launch damaging cyber attacks against critical infrastructure, but serious cyber attack independent of a larger military conflict is unlikely.
    • Non-state actors do not yet have the capability to launch a serious cyber attack, they will be able to acquire these from the cybercrime black market in less than a decade. 
    • The United States has pre-eminent offensive cyber capabilities, but it obtains little deterrent benefit from this. 
    • The United States is uniquely vulnerable and would gain more from international engagement.  



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James Andrew Lewis