What is OCC Proliferation?

The proliferation of offensive cyber capabilities (OCC)—the combination of tools; vulnerabilities; and skills, including technical, organizational, and individual capacities used to conduct offensive cyber operations—presents an expanding set of risks to states and challenges commitments to protect openness, security, and stability in cyberspace. Offensive cyber capabilities run the gamut from sophisticated, long-term disruptions of physical infrastructure to malware used to target human rights journalists. As these capabilities continue to proliferate with increasing complexity and to new types of actors, the imperative to slow and counter their spread only strengthens. But to confront this growing menace, practitioners and policy makers must understand the processes and incentives behind it. 

In-Depth Research

Issue Brief

Mar 1, 2021

A primer on the proliferation of offensive cyber capabilities

By Winnona DeSombre, Michele Campobasso, Dr. Luca Allodi, Dr. James Shires, JD Work, Robert Morgus, Patrick Howell O’Neill, and Dr. Trey Herr

Offensive cyber capabilities run the gamut from sophisticated, long-term disruptions of physical infrastructure to malware used to target human rights journalists. As these capabilities continue to proliferate with increasing complexity and to new types of actors, the imperative to slow and counter their spread only strengthens.

Arms Control Conflict

Report

Mar 1, 2021

Countering cyber proliferation: Zeroing in on Access-as-a-Service

By Winnona DeSombre, James Shires, JD Work, Robert Morgus, Patrick Howell O’Neill, Luca Allodi, and Trey Herr

The proliferation of offensive cyber capabilities (OCC) presents an expanding set of risks to states and challenges commitments to protect openness, security, and stability in cyberspace. Access as a Service firms offer various forms of “access” to target data or systems, and through these business practices are creating and selling OCC at an alarming rate. It is imperative that governments reevaluate their approach to countering the proliferation of OCC.

Arms Control Cybersecurity

In-Depth Research & Reports

Nov 8, 2021

Surveillance Technology at the Fair: Proliferation of Cyber Capabilities in International Arms Markets

By Winnona DeSombre, Lars Gjesvik, and Johann Ole Willers

Nation-state cyber capabilities are increasingly abiding by the “pay-to-play” model—both US/NATO allies and adversaries can purchase interception and intrusion technologies from private firms for intelligence and surveillance purposes. This paper analyzes active providers of interception/intrusion capabilities, as well as the primary arms fairs at which these players operate. The answers to these questions will allow policymakers to better understand the proliferation of cyber capabilities in the hands of irresponsible corporate actors that presents an urgent challenge to national and global security.

Arms Control Cybersecurity

Dataset | November 8, 2021

Surveillance technology vendors attendance at arms fairs and ISSWorld

By Winnona DeSombre, Lars Gjesvik, and Johann Ole Willers

This dataset, a companion to the “Surveillance technology at the fair: Proliferation of cyber capabilities in international arms markets” issue brief. It compiles data on firms that market interception/intrusion software and have attended arms fairs and the surveillance fair ISSWorld going back twenty years.

The Atlantic Council’s Cyber Statecraft Initiative, within the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security, works at the nexus of geopolitics and cybersecurity to craft strategies to help shape the conduct of statecraft and to better inform and secure users of technology.