Analysis & Opinions - Project Syndicate

Can Cyberwarfare Be Regulated?

| Oct. 02, 2019

Whether or not a conflict spirals out of control depends on the ability to understand and communicate about the scale of hostility. Unfortunately, when it comes to cyber conflict, there is no agreement on scale or how it relates to traditional military measures. What some regard as an agreed game or battle may not look the same to the other side.

A decade ago, the United States used cyber sabotage instead of bombs to destroy Iranian nuclear enrichment facilities. Iran responded with cyber attacks that destroyed 30,000 Saudi Aramco computers and disrupted American banks. This summer, following the imposition of crippling sanctions by US President Donald Trump's administration, Iran shot down an unmanned American surveillance drone. There were no casualties. Trump initially planned a missile strike in response, but canceled it at the last moment in favor of a cyber attack that destroyed a key database used by the Iranian military to target oil tankers. Again, there were costs but not casualties. Iran then carried out, directly or indirectly, a sophisticated drone and cruise missile strike against two major Saudi oil facilities. While it appears there were no or only light casualties, the attack represented a significant increase in costs and risks....

For more information on this publication: Belfer Communications Office
For Academic Citation:

Nye, Joseph S."Can Cyberwarfare Be Regulated?" Project Syndicate, October 2, 2019.