How Improved Attribution in Cyber Warfare Can Help De-Escalate Cyber Arms Race
Cyber warfare is a critical component of nation states’ military arsenals, and a cyber arms race has emerged in the absence of international agreements (norms and confidence-building measures) to limit the use of cyber warfare. One key impediment to building consensus on cyber norms and confidence-building measures is a lack of transparency in cyber weapons development and poor attribution of attack perpetrators. Recently, there has been improvement in attribution capabilities based on better data collection and the profiling of known hackers and nation states by intelligence agencies, and this should give impetus to efforts to establish confidence-building measures and cyber norms. This article discusses the need for, and challenges associated with attribution, recent advances that will lead to better attribution, and the collective responsibility of nation states in addressing these challenges. It suggests several initiatives to reduce chances of cyber conflict, as well as to prevent cyber conflicts from escalating such as defining clear processes for attribution, creating neutral bodies for incident analysis, and limiting the scope of retaliation based on the confidence in attribution.