Cyber Warfare

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Cyber warfare involves the actions by a nation-state or international organization to attack and attempt to damage another nation's computers or information networks through, for example, computer viruses or denial-of-service attacks. RAND research provides recommendations to military and civilian decisionmakers on methods of defending against the damaging effects of cyber warfare on a nation's digital infrastructure.

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    Commentary

    Why It's So Hard to Stop a Cyberattack — and Even Harder to Fight Back

    Mar 30, 2017

    Cyber weapons attack the underlying network or computer systems. The possibility of unexpected effects in the cyber world is therefore greater than in conventional warfare. Not knowing if the effects were intentional complicates the response.

  • Composite image of binary code on a sunset over water

    Report

    The Life and Times of Zero-Day Software Vulnerabilities

    Mar 9, 2017

    Zero-day software vulnerabilities—security holes that developers haven't fixed or aren't aware of—can lurk undetected for years. They are useful in cyber operations and in defensive and academic settings. Whether to disclose or stockpile them is an ongoing debate.

Explore Cyber Warfare

  • U.S. sailors assigned to Navy Cyber Defense Operations Command monitor, analyze, detect, and respond to unauthorized activity within U.S. Navy information systems and networks

    Commentary

    The Online Fight Against ISIS

    To prevail against ISIS in cyberspace, the United States and its cyber soldiers will have to be capable of reacting quickly, while being guided by an overarching strategy. Secretary of Defense Carter urged U.S. Cyber Command to intensify the fight against ISIS but it would also be wise to recruit civilian volunteers.

    Apr 1, 2016

  • A senior airman working in defensive cyber operations at Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado Springs, Colorado

    Commentary

    Rather Than Fearing 'Cyber 9/11,' Prepare for 'Cyber Katrina'

    The United States needs a smooth, well-functioning mutual aid system for cybersecurity that provides all of the hard-won benefits of the nation's system for hurricanes and other emergencies.

    Mar 30, 2016

  • U.S. Treasury Building in Washington, D.C.

    Commentary

    Time for Washington to Amp Up the Power to Coerce

    The U.S. government should start preparing systematically for the use of coercion as it does for military warfare, including analyzing options, assessing requirements and capabilities, conducting war games to refine these capabilities, and planning with allies.

    Mar 22, 2016

  • U.S. President Barack Obama shakes hands with Chinese President Xi Jinping at the start of the climate summit in Paris, November 30, 2015

    Report

    Getting to Yes with China in Cyberspace

    The tensions that divide the United States and China apply just as much to cyberspace as to relations in the physical world. Can the two countries achieve meaningful outcomes through formal negotiations over cyber norms and rules?

    Mar 22, 2016

  • Two teens using laptops

    Commentary

    The Military Should Increase Efforts to Find and Enlist Young Hackers

    Some notorious cyberattacks have been carried out by computer-savvy teens. They don't all have criminal intentions, they just have a particular aptitude for writing code and operating in cyberspace. The U.S. military should consider embracing and cultivating this pool of talent.

    Mar 10, 2016

  • An MQ-9 Reaper on the flightline at Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan

    Commentary

    Do 'Guardian Forces' Belong in the Military?

    More and more national security workers in and out of uniform never get close to combat. They address cyber threats, operate satellite constellations, and control drones. It's time to rethink their place in the system.

    Mar 10, 2016

  • Chess pieces on a board

    Report

    Countering Adversaries Without Going to War

    How can the United States coerce unfriendly states without going to war? The three potentially most cost-effective options are financial sanctions, support for nonviolent political opposition, and offensive cyber operations.

    Mar 3, 2016

  • Service members and civilians conduct simulated cyberattack scenarios during Cyber Guard 2015

    Commentary

    In Greater Alignment: Public and Policymakers on Cyber

    For the first time, Gallup included cyberterrorism in its annual survey of Americans' concerns about threats to U.S. interests, and 73 percent of respondents said they felt it was a critical threat. The survey results come amid a flurry of activity on the issue on Capitol Hill and at the White House.

    Feb 29, 2016

  • Testimony

    Perspective on 2015 DoD Cyber Strategy: Addendum

    Document submitted on February 23, 2016 as an addendum to testimony presented before the House Armed Services Committee on September 29, 2015.

    Feb 26, 2016

  • Cybersecurity "leak"

    Multimedia

    Emerging Cyber Threats and Implications

    Cyberspace is expanding, becoming more vulnerable, and hosting increasingly vast amounts of data. Compounding this challenge is the growing number of bad actors seeking to exploit cyberspace. What steps can be taken to help mitigate emerging threats and improve U.S. cybersecurity?

    Feb 25, 2016

  • Department of Homeland Security researchers work at the Idaho National Laboratory in Idaho Falls, April 28, 2010

    Tool

    A Framework for Programming and Budgeting for Cybersecurity

    When defending an organization, cybersecurity professionals must choose from a large set of defensive measures while operating with a limited set of resources. What is the menu of actions for defending against an attack? And how can defenders navigate the selection process?

    Jan 20, 2016

  • A row of Iranian flags in front of the Tehran skyline

    Commentary

    Iran: A Rising Cyber Power?

    Iran is a country with revisionist tendencies that has accumulated enemies. This has impelled it to develop techniques to keep them at bay. Cyber, in some circumstances, is a particularly cost-effective way of doing so.

    Dec 16, 2015

  • Protesters from the online activist group Anonymous

    Commentary

    Anonymous vs. ISIS: Wishing the Vigilante Hackers Luck Against the Murderous Jihadists

    While ISIL uses the Internet to recruit fighters and incite violence, the Anonymous counter initiative could lower the volume of the online echo chamber, and yield support for the war against ISIL and its extremist ilk.

    Dec 14, 2015

  • Close-up view on white conceptual keyboard - European Union (key with flag)

    Report

    Exploring Cybersecurity Threats and Policy Responses in the EU and Beyond

    Existing cybersecurity measures in the EU are fragmented, largely due to gaps in operational capabilities as well as strategic priorities of Member States. However, there are many policy options that may improve the EU's overall cybersecurity approach.

    Nov 18, 2015

  • A U.S. Air Force airman works at the 561st Network Operations Squadron, which executes defensive cyber operations

    Commentary

    The Two Sides of Cybersecurity

    Securing government networks is certainly necessary, but authorities should not lose sight of the need to couple their defense of America's networks with appropriate resources dedicated to combatting criminal, terrorist, and other threats in cyberspace.

    Nov 13, 2015

  • Journal Article

    Deterrence, Influence, Cyber Attack, and Cyberwar

    This study uses a simple model to speculate about whether deterrence can be a significant part of dealing with special features of the cyber attack challenge, and distinguishing different classes and contexts of cyber threats.

    Nov 13, 2015

  • Research Brief

    Cybersecurity of Air Force Weapon Systems: Ensuring Cyber Mission Assurance Throughout a System's Life Cycle

    Discusses how the Air Force acquisition/life-cycle management community can improve cybersecurity throughout the life cycle of Air Force weapon systems.

    Oct 27, 2015

  • An F-15 flying over Nevada during a USAFWS Mission Employment Exercise

    Report

    Improving the Cybersecurity of U.S. Air Force Weapon Systems

    U.S. Air Force weapon systems containing information technology may be vulnerable to intelligence exploitation and cyberattacks. But there are steps that the Air Force can take to improve the security of these systems throughout their life cycles.

    Oct 27, 2015

  • Congressional Briefing Podcast

    Multimedia

    United States and China: Trends in Military Competition

    In this October 2015 congressional briefing, Eric Heginbotham discusses relative U.S. and Chinese military capabilities, including the evolution of Chinese military capabilities, steps the United States can take to limit the impact of a growing Chinese military on deterrence, and other U.S. strategic interests.

    Oct 5, 2015

  • Joint service and civilian personnel concentrate on exercise scenarios during "Cyber Guard 2015."

    Testimony

    Perspective on 2015 DoD Cyber Strategy

    The DoD's cyber strategy is aligned with its mission, but there will be challenges to implementation—including building and maintaining a capable workforce, assessing risk across DoD networks and systems, and planning for operations.

    Sep 29, 2015