Thursday, September 7, 2017

Opaque cyber deterrence efforts


Pakistan's Nuclear Policy: A Minimum Credible Deterrence

By Zafar Khan
Figuring out what cyber operations can and can't deter is most similar to figuring out what percentage of your advertising budget you are wasting. That is: you know 90% of your cyber deterrence isn't working, you just don't know which 90%.

That said, so much more of cyber deterrence is based around private companies than we are used to working with in international relations. Kaspersky may or may not have been used for ongoing Russian operations, and the deterrent effect of banning them from the US market will have a long reach. This mix is complicated and multi-faceted. Some of the hackers that ran China's APT1 effort now work for US Anti-Virus companies.

Modern thinkers around deterrence policy often look at only declared overt deterrence, of the type North Korea is currently using. But covert deterrence is equally powerful and useful and much more applicable to offensive cyber operations where there is no like-for-like comparison between targets or operational capability.

But cyber does have deterrent effects - knowing that someone can out your covert operatives by analyzing the OPM and Delta Airline databases can deter a nation-state from operating in certain ways.

The question is whether non-nation-state actors also have opaque cyber deterrence abilities and how to model these effects as part of a larger national security strategy - for example, via Google's Project Zero. And it's possible that the majority of cyber deterrence will at least pretend to be non-nation-state efforts, such as ShadowBrokers.

Technically, deterrence often means the ability to rapidly respond and neutralize offensive cyber tools. Modern technology such as endpoint monitoring, or country-wide network filtering, can provide an effective deterrence effort when provided with input from SIGINT or HUMINT sources that effectively neutralizes potential offensive efforts by our adversaries.

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