What is cyber statecraft?

Cyber statecraft is the use of technology to achieve strategic ends. Cyber statecraft is in a government’s design of data governance regulations to punish foreign firms, in a technology company’s decision to unmask a national intelligence operation, and in the military’s use of cyber effects to support forces on a kinetic battlefield. As private firms expand their authority over internet infrastructure, content, and activities they too become influential geopolitical players. As states assimilate technology into new domains of conventional warfare, surveillance, and security regulation, they fuse choices in technology design to political debate. 

This is the conduct of cyber statecraft, at the nexus of technology and geopolitics.  

The insecurity of widely used technology systems, from planes, to routers, to automobiles presents a marked danger to economic and social health. Adversaries present novel threats to well-established policy processes and demand action in new domains and in new forms from policymakers. The Cyber Statecraft Initiative presents substantive analysis from those closest to the issues, leveraging the Scowcroft Center’s innate expertise and a network of fellows to shift attention from singular incidents to the slow but tectonic nature of strategic change. 

Our pillars

Cyber operations and defense policy

Cyber capabilities are an increasingly common feature on modern battlefields and shape the conduct of statecraft. The development of these capabilities must now factor into debates about doctrine, force structure, and innovation. Our work looks at the broad policy landscape around cyber capabilities including the secure acquisition and operation of software intensive defense systems, modern security assistance, the proliferation of cyber capabilities, and network exploitation on the boundaries of electronic warfare. 

Internet and systems security

An interconnected system of global networks, the internet provides a massive platform for conducting commerce and linking people across international community. Organizations of all shapes and sizes depend on the internet. We work to support and advise governments and the private sector working to secure the internet from degradation, malign influence, and direct harm. We advocate for US global leadership and empowered user communities by convening practitioners to ensure a free, secure, and open internet. 

Communities of cyberspace

Cybersecurity continues to expand and with it the need for a trained and talented workforce in nations of all sizes. The size of this workforce continues to lag demand, particularly for those who can translate between policy and technology. Through our Cyber 9/12 Strategy Challenge, we seek to tackle the global cyber skills shortage with iterated crisis simulation, policy analysis, and mentorship. Part interactive learning experience, part competitive scenario exercise, Cyber 9/12 challenges student teams from a range of academic disciplines to respond to a realistic and evolving scenario. Teams analyze threats and develop responses to manage an escalating crisis, with built in feedback loops from expert judges.

Cyber safety

The convergence of the digital and physical worlds through embedded computing and the Internet of Things impacts the technology marketplace and geopolitical dynamics through systems people interact with every day. We seek to identify and influence key policy debates on the security of operational technologies across the United States, European Union, and Asia, driving collaborative efforts to focus on healthcare devices, maritime systems, and aerospace technologies.

Analysis and in-depth research

Our articles, issue briefs, and reports consist of notes from the field and analysis from our team—insights to give you practical leverage on the complex challenges of cybersecurity. A synthesis of technical systems and policy dynamics, cybersecurity demands detailed understanding to create meaningful change. These analyses dig deep into the concepts and assumptions that shape the geopolitics of cybersecurity. 

Events and convening

Leadership

Opportunities

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Applications close Friday, March 26, 2021.

Fellows

Experts

Content

Tue, May 11, 2021

How operational collaboration can improve US cyber capability and response

Dealing with cyber challenges to US national security will take operational collaboration that unites all levels of the government and the private sector. These efforts can maximize the strategic impact of public- and private-sector capabilities, speed up defenders’ response times, and provide organizations with advanced warning of potential attacks and complex threats to resilience.

New Atlanticist by Gregory Rattray

Cybersecurity Technology & Innovation

Mon, May 10, 2021

What would Winston do? Cooperative approaches toward securing the Five Eyes information environment

Given the global prevalence of English, the countries comprising the Five Eyes intelligence alliance should build upon existing proven frameworks to cooperate to secure their shared information environment.

Issue Brief by Daniel Dobrowolski, David V. Gioe, and Trey Herr

Cybersecurity Disinformation

Mon, May 10, 2021

Mission resilience: Adapting defense aerospace to evolving cybersecurity challenges

While aerospace presents inherently distinct challenges from other spaces, defense organizations could look to the private sector and adapt commercial practices to implement the principles of resilience.

Report by Simon Handler, Trey Herr, Steve Luczynski, and Reed Porada

Cybersecurity Defense Industry

Tue, May 4, 2021

A plea to the Pentagon: Don’t sacrifice resilience on the altar of innovation

US defense systems are vulnerable because they are brittle and unmaintained, and thus not resilient. Fixing it will require a new approach to acquisition.

New Atlanticist by JC Herz

Cybersecurity Defense Industry

Fri, Apr 30, 2021

Myles-Primakoff and Sherman in Foreign Policy: Russia Can’t Afford to Block Twitter—Yet

In the News

Politics & Diplomacy Russia

Thu, Apr 22, 2021

Handler and Sherman in the National Interest: The United States needs a public strategy for deterring disinformation

To give the disinformation threat the credence it deserves, the government must create a public strategy on combating disinformation, with deterrence as a main component.

In the News by Atlantic Council

Cybersecurity Disinformation

Mon, Mar 29, 2021

Broken trust: Lessons from Sunburst

The story of trust is an old one, but the Sunburst cyber-espionage campaign was a startling reminder of the United States’ collective cyber insecurity and the inadequacy of current US strategy to compete in a dynamic intelligence contest in cyberspace.

Report by Trey Herr, Will Loomis, Emma Schroeder, Stewart Scott, Simon Handler, and Tianjiu Zuo

Cybersecurity Intelligence

Wed, Mar 24, 2021

How to reverse three decades of escalating cyber conflict

Cyber conflict has not yet escalated from a fight inside cyberspace to a more traditional armed attack because of cyberspace. In part, this is because countries understand there are some tacit upper limits to escalation above which the response from the offended country will be war. Unfortunately, this happy state may not last.

New Atlanticist by Jason Healey and Robert Jervis

Cybersecurity Technology & Innovation

Tue, Mar 16, 2021

Handler in The Hill: Israel and Palestine must cooperate to combat disinformation

It is in the best interest of both Israel and the Palestinians to confront the challenge of Hamas disinformation together.

In the News by Atlantic Council

Disinformation Israel

Tue, Mar 16, 2021

A mom’s guide to coercion and deterrence

There’s a silver lining to parenting in a pandemic: It’s an education in the core concepts of international relations, as well as a useful reminder that we’re all operating in a condition of anarchy. Here's a mom’s primer on deterrence, coercion, credibility, and reassurance.

New Atlanticist by Emma Ashford, Erica Borghard

Conflict Crisis Management