attack. And the development of defenses against particular cyber attacks requires having the appropriate cyber weapons available for use in the development environment.

Organizational Impacts

The use of cyber weapons as an instrument of government policy has many organizational implications. For example, organizations established to use cyber weapons must consider matters such as training, liability for any use of such weapons that harms innocent parties, recruitment (how to obtain personnel skilled in the use of such weapons who can be trusted to use them in the service of legitimate government goals), command and control and rules of engagement (how and under what circumstances cyber “shooters” receive orders to use their weapons, whose authority is needed to issue such orders), and identification friend-or-foe, the process by which legitimate cyber targets are identified.

Adversary Perceptions

The alleged U.S. use of cyber weapons (alleged because such use has not been publicly acknowledged by the U.S. government) against Iran (the Stuxnet worm, as described in Footnote 27) has spawned concerns that cyber weapons released “into the wild” and then used against adversary targets will redound against U.S. interests in several ways. The first concern is that the use of such weapons by the United States legitimates them as an instrument of international conflict, and increases the likelihood that other nation-states will use them against the United States in a future conflict or disagreement. A second concern is that such use flies in the face of long-standing U.S. policy pronouncements about the value of a secure Internet environment for the entire world. Last, there is a concern that the code—the actual programming—can be reverse-engineered and then used by adversaries to develop cyber weapons of their own.


The U.S. Department of Defense defines “nonlethal weapons” as “weapons … designed and primarily employed to incapacitate targeted personnel or materiel immediately, while minimizing fatalities, permanent injury to personnel, and undesired damage to property in the targeted areas or environment. Non-lethal weapons are intended to have reversible effects on personnel or materiel.” Other terms used to refer to similar weapons include “less lethal,” “less than lethal,” “prelethal,” and “potentially lethal.”

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