Deterrence Stability in the Cyber Age

Technical and operational realities make it prohibitively difficult to adapt a Cold War paradigm of “deterrence stability” to the new domain of cyber warfare. Information quality problems are likely to forestall the development of a cyber equivalent of the strategic exchange models that assessed deterrence stability during the Cold War. Since cyberspace is not firmly connected to geographic space the way other domains are, it makes modeling extremely difficult as well as muddles neat conceptual distinctions between “counterforce” (military) and “countervalue” (civilian) targets. These obstacles seriously complicate U.S. planning for a credible cyber “assured response,” and also present substantial challenges to potential adversaries contemplating cyber attacks against U.S. interests. To create a maximally effective deterrent against cyber threats, the United States should seek to maximize the challenges for possible opponents by creating a cyber “strategy of technology” emphasizing resilience, denial, and offensive capabilities.