place? How does today’s uncertainty about authority affect the nation’s ability to execute any given policy on cyberdeterrence?

  1. Cyberattack can be used as a tool for offensive and defensive purposes. How should cyberattacks intended for defensive purposes (e.g., conducted as part of an active defense to neutralize an incoming attack) differ from those intended for offensive purposes (e.g., a strategic cyberattack against the critical infrastructure of an adversary)? What guidelines should structure the former as opposed to the latter?

Research contributions in these areas will have greater value if they can provide concrete analyses of the offensive actors (states, criminal organizations, patriotic hackers, terrorists, and so on), motivations (national security, financial, terrorism), actor capacities and resources, and which targets require protection beyond that afforded by passive defenses and law enforcement (e.g., military and intelligence assets, critical infrastructure, and so on).


The research agenda described in the questions above is intellectually challenging and fundamentally interdisciplinary. The committee hopes that a variety of scholarly communities, including those in political science, psychology, and computer science and information technology, are able to find ways of working together to address the very important question of deterring cyberattacks against the societal interests of the United States.

Moving forward and in accordance with the requirements of the relevant contract, the committee has commissioned a number of papers that address some of the questions articulated above. Drafts of these papers will be discussed in a workshop to be held in June 2010. Although resource limitations will constrain the number of papers commissioned, the committee is of the belief that all of these questions are important and deserve further significant attention.


John D. Steinbruner,


Committee on Deterring Cyberattacks

Computer Science and Telecommunications Board

Division on Engineering and Physical Sciences

Division on Policy and Global Affairs

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