Publication:
SIGNALING FOR COERCION IN CYBERSPACE

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Authors
Longabaugh, Eric E.
Subjects
coercion
deterrence
cyberspace
signaling
persistent engagement
compellence
Advisors
Huntley, Wade L.
Date of Issue
2020-12
Date
Publisher
Monterey, CA; Naval Postgraduate School
Language
Abstract
In order for signaling to work on an adversary with a coercive purpose, one must convey to the adversary a strong capability and sufficient credibility. The reason deterrence worked in the Gulf War was that U.S. policymakers had a well-established and highly feared capability in hand, and establishing credibility was the primary concern in that scenario. However, cyber-based capabilities have not reached a potency to where they could coerce an adversary in and of themselves. The failure of the coalition to compel Saddam Hussein to withdraw from Kuwait underscores the limits of compellence even when based on overwhelming conventional force; cyber capabilities are still not comparable to conventional forces in hurting power, which undermines their viability for coercion. Credibility is not an issue; the history of cyber conflict demonstrates that the only way nations establish capability is by the actual employment of capabilities against adversary targets, which solves the problem of credibility. Yet the most powerful cyber effects on critical infrastructure, such as those demonstrated in the Stuxnet attack, cannot permanently disarm an adversary and run the risk of escalation into a kinetic war. Research for this thesis indicates that signaling in cyberspace to an adversary for the intent of coercion is possible but unlikely to succeed while cyberweapons lack the capability to inflict sufficient harm on the adversary.
Type
Thesis
Description
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Department
Information Sciences (IS)
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Distribution Statement
Approved for public release. distribution is unlimited
Rights
This publication is a work of the U.S. Government as defined in Title 17, United States Code, Section 101. Copyright protection is not available for this work in the United States.
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