Hacking Back: Not the Right Solution

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The ability to retaliate against cyber attackers—irrespective of the legalities of such actions—appears to have gained traction in the United States government, but is it a practical response for achieving tactical and strategic objectives in cyberspace? Attribution limitations, collateral damage considerations, the Internet’s global archi- tecture, and potential event escalation make the challenges of engaging in active cyber defense an ineffective course of action destined to achieve limited tactical successes at best; and it risks accelerating digital as well as physical conflict. Too many variables prevent active cyber defense deter- ring or punishing adversaries in cyberspace. For that reason, this article advocates a more productive solution—aggressive cyber defense—to frustrate attackers via nondestructive or damaging activities.

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Iran’s Emergence as a Cyber Power

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As international scrutiny remains focused on the Islamic Republic of Iran’s nuclear program, a capability is developing in the shadows inside Iran that could pose an even greater threat to the United States. The 2010 National Security Strategy discusses Iran in the context of its nuclear program, support of terrorism, its influence in regional activities, and its internal problems. There was no mention of Iran’s cyber capability or of that ability to pose a threat to U.S. interests. This is understandable, considering Iran has not been a major concern in the cyber realm. Furthermore, Russia and China’s cyber activities have justifiably garnered a majority of attention and been widely reported in the media over the past decade. Iran’s cyber capabilities have been considered third-tier at best. That is rapidly changing. This report discusses the growing cyber capability of Iran and why it poses a new threat to U.S. national interests.

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Designer Satellite Collisions from Covert Cyber War

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Outer space has enjoyed two decades of fairly peaceful development since the Cold War, but once again it is becoming more competitive and contested, with increased militarization. Therefore, it is important the United States maintain its space superiority to ensure it has the capabilities required by modern warfare for successful operations. Today is different from earlier periods of space development,1 because there is not a blatantly overt arms race in space,2 but instead a covert challenge to US interests in maintaining superiority, resilience, and capability. A finite number of states consider themselves geopolitical actors; however, as long as the United States maintains space superiority, they must play according to a set of rules written without their consent and forced upon them. US space assets monitor the actions of authoritarian regimes and their pursuit of regional influence—a practice these regimes find quite disturbing. Therefore, any degradation or limitation of US space-borne capabilities would be seen as a successful outcome for such regimes. Cyber warfare offers these adversarial actors the opportunity to directly or indirectly destroy US space assets with minimal risk due to limited attribution and traceability. This article addresses how they might accomplish this objective. We must begin by examining US reliance on space before focusing on space clutter and the means an adversary might use to exploit it. While satellite protection is a challenge, there are several solutions the United States should consider in the years ahead.

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