[ISN] Commentary: Cyber Deterrence Is Working

http://www.defensenews.com/article/20140730/DEFFEAT05/307300017/Commentary-Cyber-Deterrence-Working By Jason Healey Defense News July 30, 2014 Despite the mainstream view of cyberwar professionals and theorists, cyber deterrence is not only possible but has been working for decades. Cyberwar professionals are in the midst of a decades-old debate on how America could deter adversaries from attacking us in cyberspace. In 2010, then-Deputy Defense Secretary Bill Lynn summed up the prevailing view that “Cold War deterrence models do not apply to cyberspace” because of low barriers to entry and the anonymity of Internet attacks. Cyber attacks, unlike intercontinental missiles, don’t have a return address. But this view is too narrow and technical. The history of how nations have actually fought (or not fought) conflicts in cyberspace makes it clear deterrence is not only theoretically possible, but is actually keeping an upper threshold to cyber hostilities. The hidden hand of deterrence is most obvious in the discussion of “a digital Pearl Harbor.” In 2012, then-Defense Secretary Leon Panetta described his worries of such a bolt-from-the-blue attack that could cripple the United States or its military. Though his phrase raised eyebrows among cyber professionals, there was broad agreement with the basic implication: The United States is strategically vulnerable and potential adversaries have both the means for strategic attack and the will to do it. But worrying about a digital Pearl Harbor actually dates not to 2012 but to testimony by Winn Schwartau to Congress in 1991. So cyber experts have been handwringing about a digital Pearl Harbor for more than 20 of the 70 years since the actual Pearl Harbor. […]