The Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security works to develop sustainable, nonpartisan strategies to address the most important security challenges facing the United States and the world.

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






Press Release

Oct 4, 2021

Atlantic Council’s Cyber 9/12 Strategy Challenge expands to South Africa

The University of Cape Town’s Cybersecurity Capacity Centre for Southern Africa joins as strategic partner for virtual competition WASHINGTON, DC; CAPE TOWN – October 4, 2021 – The Atlantic Council’s Cyber Statecraft Initiative, part of the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security, has partnered with the University of Cape Town (UCT)’s Cybersecurity Capacity Centre for Southern Africa […]


In-Depth Research & Reports

Oct 4, 2021

Raising the colors: Signaling for cooperation on maritime cybersecurity

By William Loomis, Virpratap Vikram Singh, Dr. Gary C. Kessler, Dr. Xavier Bellekens

Few industries are as critical to the global economy as the maritime transportation system (MTS). However, the efficient operation of the MTS is at risk, as the industry is increasingly vulnerable to cyber threats. The MTS must work to raise its baseline for cybersecurity and better protect its actors from systemic cyber threats going forward.

Cybersecurity Maritime Security

In-Depth Research & Reports

Oct 4, 2021

Introduction: Cooperation on maritime cybersecurity

By William Loomis, Virpratap Vikram Singh, Dr. Gary C. Kessler, Dr. Xavier Bellekens

It is imperative to establish at the outset that there is no silver bullet for maritime cybersecurity. This report is intended to deliver a more complete and operational plan to better protect the MTS by focusing on building upon, broadening, and deepening the priorities put forward by the National Maritime Cyber Plan by focusing on three key principles: risks and standards, information and intelligence sharing, and creating a maritime cybersecurity workforce.

Cybersecurity Defense Technologies

In-Depth Research & Reports

Oct 4, 2021

A system of systems: Cooperation on maritime cybersecurity

By William Loomis, Virpratap Vikram Singh, Dr. Gary C. Kessler, Dr. Xavier Bellekens

The MTS is not monolithic; it is a markedly complex “system of systems.” This section segments the MTS into three discrete systems—ships, ports, and cargo—each with its own life cycle, in order to highlight areas of risk and leverage for policy makers and the industry.

Cybersecurity Maritime Security

In-Depth Research & Reports

Oct 4, 2021

Recommendations: Cooperation on maritime cybersecurity

By William Loomis, Virpratap Vikram Singh, Dr. Gary C. Kessler, Dr. Xavier Bellekens

This report puts forward twelve recommendations—split into three overarching themes—to help better secure all subsystems of the MTS from evolving cyber threats.

Cybersecurity Maritime Security


Oct 4, 2021

Appendices: Cooperation on maritime cybersecurity

By William Loomis, Virpratap Vikram Singh, Dr. Gary C. Kessler, Dr. Xavier Bellekens

The appendices for key players and an acronym list referred to in 'Raising the colors: Signaling for cooperation on maritime cybersecurity.'

Cybersecurity Maritime Security

The 5×5

Sep 29, 2021

The 5×5—The future of cyber diplomacy

By Simon Handler

We brought together experts with a range of perspectives to discuss cyber diplomacy and what the future of responsible cyber statecraft looks like.

Civil Society Conflict

New Atlanticist

Sep 17, 2021

How Russia made Apple and Google complicit in its internet crackdown

By Dylan Myles-Primakoff, Justin Sherman

Just as voting opened in Russia, Apple and Google deleted an app from their stores published by Alexei Navalny's team designed to deliver candidate recommendations. Here's why that signals an international problem.

Cybersecurity Elections

In the News

Sep 13, 2021

Handler and Schroeder on Defense & Aerospace Report’s Cyber Report podcast: Lessons from aircraft hijacking to counter ransomware

By Atlantic Council

On this week’s Cyber Report, sponsored by Northrop Grumman, Simon Handler and Emma Schroeder discuss the new paper “Countering Ransomware: Lessons from Aircraft Hijacking,” with Defense & Aerospace Report Editor Vago Muradian.

Cybersecurity Security & Defense


Sep 13, 2021

Cyber defense across the ocean floor: The geopolitics of submarine cable security

By Justin Sherman

The vast majority of intercontinental global Internet traffic—upwards of 95 percent—travels over undersea cables that run across the ocean floor. The construction of new submarine cables is a key part of the constantly changing physical topology of the Internet worldwide. However, this dependence is not matched by increased security, leaving our undersea cables—the core of the global internet—at risk.

Cybersecurity Europe & Eurasia