Cyber Warfare

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Cyber warfare involves the actions by a nation-state or international organization to attack and attempt to damage another nation's computers or information networks through, for example, computer viruses or denial-of-service attacks. RAND research provides recommendations to military and civilian decisionmakers on methods of defending against the damaging effects of cyber warfare on a nation's digital infrastructure.

  • World map, photo by nadla/Getty Images

    Commentary

    Why It's So Hard to Stop a Cyberattack — and Even Harder to Fight Back

    Mar 30, 2017

    Cyber weapons attack the underlying network or computer systems. The possibility of unexpected effects in the cyber world is therefore greater than in conventional warfare. Not knowing if the effects were intentional complicates the response.

  • Composite image of binary code on a sunset over water by Eileen Delson La Russo/RAND, adapted from images by Agil_Leonardo, Matejmo, and Byakkaya/Getty Images

    Report

    The Life and Times of Zero-Day Software Vulnerabilities

    Mar 9, 2017

    Zero-day software vulnerabilities—security holes that developers haven't fixed or aren't aware of—can lurk undetected for years. They are useful in cyber operations and in defensive and academic settings. Whether to disclose or stockpile them is an ongoing debate.

Explore Cyber Warfare

  • Report

    Cyber Power Potential of the Army's Reserve Component

    Describes the availability of personnel with cyber skills in the private sector and the number of Army reserve component soldiers available to support the Army's cyber mission needs.

    Jun 15, 2017

  • A man holds a laptop computer as cyber code is projected on him

    Report

    Could Stateless Attribution Promote International Cyber Accountability?

    The public may respond to government claims about who is behind a cyberattack with suspicion and confusion. Could an independent, global organization for cyber attribution help?

    Jun 2, 2017

  • A soldier sets up voice intercept equipment during a cyber integration exercise on Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington, October 21, 2015

    Commentary

    What Happens After ISIS Goes Underground

    As the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria suffers defeats on the battlefield, it is expanding its cyber presence to continue to encourage attacks abroad. The more the group relies on cyberspace, the more likely it will expose important segments of its organization to detection and disruption.

    May 30, 2017

  • The Indiana National Guard Computer Network Defense Team readies their workstations for the Cyber Shield 2016 exercise at Camp Atterbury, Indiana, April 20, 2016

    Commentary

    Reservists and the National Guard Offer Untapped Resources for Cybersecurity

    More than 100,000 personnel in the Army National Guard and the U.S. Army Reserve have some degree of cyber competence, including thousands with deep or mid-level expertise. They could help defend the cyber terrain on which America's national security, prosperity, and democracy depend.

    Apr 18, 2017

  • Report

    Tactical Cyber: Building a Strategy for Cyber Support to Corps and Below

    This report proposes a strategy for tactical Army cyber operations, enumerating overarching goals, objectives, and associated activities. Instructive case studies are provided that support implementation of the strategy.

    Mar 28, 2017

  • A coder types on laptop keyboard

    Commentary

    Reining in Internet Abuse

    The internet is being used for harmful, unethical, and illegal purposes. Examples include incitement and recruitment by terrorists, cyber bullying, and malicious fake news. Americans say they are unhappy with the tone of the online discourse, but are reluctant to consider potential remedies.

    Mar 23, 2017

  • News Release

    RAND Study Examines 200 Real-World 'Zero-Day' Software Vulnerabilities

    Zero-day software vulnerabilities—security holes that developers haven't fixed or aren't aware of—can lurk undetected for years. They are useful in cyber operations and in defensive and academic settings. Whether to disclose or stockpile them is an ongoing debate.

    Mar 9, 2017

  • U.S. Army soldiers take part in a multi-service exercise on cyber capabilities at Ford Gordon in Augusta, Georgia, June 10, 2014

    Testimony

    Effective Cyberdeterrence Takes More Than Offensive Capability

    A successful cyberdeterrence posture has many prerequisites. These include attributing attacks to the correct party, thresholds for what merits retaliation, credibility, and offensive capability. For the United States, capability is the least in doubt.

    Mar 1, 2017

  • Hands programming code on a laptop

    Project

    Evaluation of the Dutch Defence Cyber Strategy

    A highly effective defence cyber strategy is vital for national and international organisations in safeguarding and increasing the effectiveness of their defence capabilities and enhancing their own cyber resilience. The Dutch Ministry of Defence has thus asked RAND Europe and VKA to evaluate its strategy.

    Jan 31, 2017

  • President Barack Obama talks about cyber hacking during the U.S. presidential election as he holds his final news conference of the year at the White House in Washington, December 16, 2016

    Commentary

    How to Deter Foreign Cyberattacks on U.S. Elections

    Deterring future cyber-meddling in U.S. elections will require convincing adversaries — Russia and others — that any future such meddling will either be ineffective and/or too costly to be worthwhile.

    Jan 5, 2017

  • Russia's President Vladimir Putin (C), Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov (L), and Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu attend a meeting at the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia December 29, 2016

    Commentary

    No Quick Fix with Russia

    A series of small steps is more likely to improve Western and Russian security than an attempt at a total reset. At the same time, sanctions against Russia over its actions in Ukraine, and NATO actions to reassure and protect allies, must continue.

    Jan 3, 2017

  • People protest as electors gather to cast their votes amid allegations of Russian hacking to try to influence the U.S. presidential election in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, December 19, 2016

    Commentary

    Were Russian Hacks Really a Threat to American Democracy?

    The Russian attacks should be another wake up call about the relentless probing of America's digital assets by adversaries and the potential consequences of weak cyber defenses. But U.S. democracy appears to have survived safe and sound.

    Dec 30, 2016

  • A sailor opens a network monitoring program during an exercise at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, California, August 22, 2016

    Commentary

    America's Cyber Security Dilemma — and a Way Out

    The United States should continue to pursue international cooperation in cyberspace, improve its ability to identify and expose the sources of attacks, and improve its oversight of the development and adoption of cyber-related technologies.

    Dec 22, 2016

  • The lobby of the CIA Headquarters Building in Langley, Virginia

    Commentary

    How Can We Be Sure Putin Hacked the Democrats?

    Did Russia conduct an election cyber campaign against America? There is likely no smoking gun. But there is presumably a preponderance of technical evidence, intelligence, and benefits to Moscow that points in that direction.

    Dec 16, 2016

  • Russian President Vladimir Putin attends a press conference at Tegel airport in Berlin, Germany, October 20, 2016

    Commentary

    Checklist for a U.S.-Russia Cyberwar

    The Obama administration is reportedly considering a response to Russia's alleged hack of the Democratic National Committee. But many questions must be addressed first.

    Oct 31, 2016

  • Server room interior in datacenter

    Project

    Reforming NATO's Cyber Acquisition Process

    NATO's cyber acquisition process must be adaptive, capable of attracting new entrants and incorporating new technologies. This project aims to define the challenges NATO faces in adjusting its cyber capability development and acquisition processes and make recommendations on how to address them.

    Oct 25, 2016

  • Moral compass image from RR1505

    Project

    Understanding the Moral Dimension of Conflict

    Cyber and autonomous capabilities challenge the core principles of morality frameworks in a number of ways. While a prominent question in the public debate is whether morality can be reduced to an algorithm, the body of academic work on the subject is more nuanced.

    Oct 23, 2016

  • Report

    The moral component of cross-domain conflict

    The study considers the body of work on morality and armed conflict in the future operating environment and provides insights on the ways in which new ways of fighting may challenge traditional moral principles.

    Oct 20, 2016