Friday, May 14, 2010

Hostage Deterrence

Today I happened to hear yet another discussion about the impossibility of deterrence in cyberspace, when I realized that it may not be entirely true.

While I agree that in the conventional sense, cyberspace does not support the concept of deterrence very well (lack of attribution), I think there is a special case where it might work. Consider a situation, where Nation A develops a credible offensive cyber capability and announces a policy that regardless of attribution, if a critical cyber attack were launched against it, it would automatically launch a critical cyber attack against Nation(s) B(,C,D, ...). In that highly controversial case, Nation A would actually have a deterrent against the other Nation(s) in question.

In other words, Nation B is effectively deterred from launching a critical cyber attack against Nation A.

Obviously, the weak point here is that any Nation X may do a false flag or anonymous attack in order to make Nation A to attack Nation B without cause. That is why it is not normal deterrence, but something you might call "hostage deterrence". Has anyone come across such a thing before, either in theory or in practice?

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