In both areas, states have agreed to criminalize terrorist attacks, and to prosecute or extradite violators. These commitments have not uniformly been kept, but security has been enhanced in these areas of international commerce because of the virtually universal support given to protecting these activities from identified threats. It is an open question whether such an approach might enhance cybersecurity internationally, whether or not it excludes any direct application or restriction on the national security activities of signatories.


Law enforcement regimes to prosecute cyber criminals are not the only ones possible to help promote cybersecurity. As noted in Toward a Safer and More Secure Cyberspace, the nation’s cybersecurity posture would be significantly enhanced if all owners and operators of computer systems and networks took actions that are already known to improve cybersecurity. That is, the nation needs to do things that the nation already knows how to do.

What that report identified as a critical problem in cybersecurity was a failure of action. That report attributed the lack of adequate action to two factors—the fact that decision makers discount future possibilities of disaster so much that they do not see the need for present-day action (that is, they weigh the immediate costs of putting into place adequate cybersecurity measures, both technical and procedural, against the potential future benefits (actually, avoided costs) of preventing cyber disaster in the future—and systematically discount the latter as uncertain and vague) and the additional fact that the costs of inaction are not borne by the relevant decision makers (that is, the nation as a whole bears the cost of inaction, whereas the cost of action is borne by the owners and operators of critical infrastructure, which are largely private-sector companies).

Accordingly, that report called for changes in the decision-making calculus that at present excessively focuses vendor and end-user attention on the short-term costs of improving their cybersecurity postures. The report did not specify the nature of the necessary changes, but rather noted the need for more research in this area to assess the pros and cons of any given change.

The present report reiterates the importance of changing the decision-making calculus described above, but suggests that developing the necessary domestic regime (including possibly law, regulation, education, culture, and norms) to support a new calculus will demand considerable research.

A Possible Research Agenda

Although the preceding section seeks to describe some of the essential elements of cyberdeterrence, it is sobering to realize the enormity of intellectually unexplored territory associated with such a basic concept. Thus, the committee believes that considerable work needs to be done to explore the relevance and applicability of deterrence and prevention/inhibition to cyber conflict. At the highest level of abstraction, the central issue of interest is to identify what combinations of posture,

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