How Should the U.S. Approach Cyberwarfare?

As the age of cyber-conflict dawns, the U.S. is wholly unprepared to respond to emerging threats.

Savannah Wallace
Aug 19, 2020 · 9 min read
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Photo by Michael Dziedzic on Unsplash

America in the Cyber Age

American efforts to develop cyber-weapons and improve its capabilities are largely kept secret, as top leaders in the defense and intelligence communities have been reticent to disclose information over fear that their strategic advantage over adversaries may be revealed. But David Sanger lays out a comprehensive history of American cyber efforts in The Perfect Weapon. Leaders saw the signs that cyberterrorism was emerging as a major issue in the early 2000s, but did not adapt quickly. In the Department of Defense (DoD), a few officials initially handled cyber issues at Strategic Command while, in the intelligence community, the National Security Agency (NSA) started building up a cadre of civilian coders to develop nascent cyberweapons. Initial offensive efforts in cyber focused on retrieving “data at rest” (e.g. database, hard drive files, and spreadsheets).

Policy Recommendations

I. The U.S. must create many tailored plans to deter a range of attacks from each possible adversary.


As technology becomes more integrated into our lives, particularly as the “Internet of Things” expands and more everyday items become computerized, the U.S. must take action to minimize or eliminate vulnerabilities in its critical infrastructure. Cybersecurity needs to be improved on both technical and social fronts. And because the U.S. has an open Internet, diverse corporations, agencies, and actors must unite to improve their cyber capabilities and resilience. Only then will the U.S. be prepared to defend itself against the multifarious threats it faces.

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