Cyberdeterrence and Cyberwar

RAND Congressional Briefing Series

With dire warnings about U.S. cyber vulnerabilities, the Obama administration is pushing Congress to pass a comprehensive cybersecurity bill, and Senate and House committees are moving forward to craft such legislation. Clearly, the protection of cyberspace from potential foreign adversaries has become a vital national interest because of its importance both to the economy and to military power. But traditional warfighting techniques, such as force, offense, defense, and deterrence, cannot be blindly applied to cyberspace. Instead, cyberspace must be understood on its own terms, and policy decisions being made for this domain must reflect this understanding. Failure to do so may hinder policy and planning.

This briefing focuses on

  • what cyberwar is and what it is not
  • the value of vigilance and deterrence
  • actions that the United States can take to protect itself in the event of a cyberattack
  • policy considerations for Congress.

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