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Brandishing Cyberattack Capabilities

Brandishing Cyberattack Capabilities

Martin C. Libicki
Copyright Date: 2013
Published by: RAND Corporation
Pages: 46
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  • Book Info
    Brandishing Cyberattack Capabilities
    Book Description:

    Deterrence is possible only when others have at least a good idea of possible U.S. military reprisals, but cyberattack capabilities resist such demonstration. This report explores ways they can be and under what circumstances, then goes on to examine the difficulties and the drawbacks. Such “brandishing” is no panacea and could even backfire if misinterpreted. Its success also relies on the strength of other elements of the deterrence posture.

    eISBN: 978-0-8330-8004-2
    Subjects: Technology, Political Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-ii)
  2. Preface
    (pp. iii-iv)
  3. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  4. Summary
    (pp. vii-xii)
  5. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
  6. CHAPTER ONE No May Day Parades
    (pp. 1-4)

    Marching warfighters and weaponry down urban thoroughfares has been a time-honored way for states to hint at their ability to carry out war. Cyberwar capabilities, to be sure, resist such presentation. Cadres of computer geeks advancing with laptops in their rucksacks somehow do not inspire the same awe.

    The inability to display power points to a larger dilemma of cyberwar. The U.S. military exists not just to fight and win wars but also to deter them, that is, to persuade others not to start them (or even prepare for them). To do this, it helps to demonstrate that the U.S....

  7. CHAPTER TWO The Broad Effects of Brandishing Cyberattack Capabilities
    (pp. 5-18)

    Brandishing a capability that cannot be displayed for inspection and cannot be demonstrated in any detail without rapidly nullifying it is more than a little challenging. In this chapter, I examine various ways of addressing the challenge, concluding that, while each has its merits, none is altogether satisfactory. In sequence, therefore, the chapter discusses how system penetration may allude to cyberattack capabilities, how the fear that penetration has already occurred may be created and sustained, and how fears of penetration may effect an adversary’s operational behavior or even its defense investments. It then examines some consequences of employing cyberattacks as...

  8. CHAPTER THREE Brandishing Cyberattack in a Nuclear Confrontation
    (pp. 19-28)

    It is not easy to confront countries that threaten to use their nuclear capabilities if the United States does not conform to their wishes. Might brandishing a cyberattack capability influence the course of such confrontations? Examining the mechanisms of such influence may shed further light on the opportunities and limitations of brandishing cyberattack capabilities (even if not necessarily expanding our understanding of nuclear confrontations as such).

    In doing so, we will not necessarily claim that U.S. cyberattack capabilities can reliably confound adversary nuclear capabilities. States, after all, pay a great deal of attention to their nuclear weapon systems against the...

  9. CHAPTER FOUR Conclusions
    (pp. 29-30)

    Brandishing a cyber capability would do three things: declare a capability, suggest the possibility of its use in a particular circumstance, and indicate that such use would really hurt. In the era of the U.S.-Soviet nuclear standoff, the suggestion of use was the most relevant. Possession was obvious, and its consequences were well understood. The same does not hold true for cyberweapons. Possession is likely not obvious, and the ability to inflict serious harm is debatable. Even if demonstrated, what worked yesterday may not work today. But difficult does not mean impossible.

    Advertising cyberwar capabilities may be helpful. It may...

  10. References
    (pp. 31-32)