Security and Defence


Deterrence of cyber-attacks in international relations

12 Jun 2017 - 16:21

Denial, retaliation and signaling

Deterrence of cyber-attacks by states or state-sponsored actors is becoming an increasingly important issue in international relations. For states, the increasing threat of large cyber-attacks is not an easy challenge. Ideally, enemies are deterred before they actually launch a cyber-attack, so no damage is done at all. To deter cyber-attackers, their cost-benefit calculation needs to be influenced, leading them to conclude that the costs of launching a cyber-attack may be higher than the benefits.

This article concisely discusses the main policy options that are relevant for deterring major cyber-attacks by other states or state actors. The options are grouped into three main categories: 1) Deterrence by Denial; 2) Deterrence by Retaliation; and 3) Deterrence by Signaling.

This article was originally published in the journal International Affairs Forum.