National security planners have begun to look beyond reactive, tactical cyber defense to proactive, strategic cyber defense, which may include international military deterrence. The incredible power of nuclear weapons gave birth to deterrence, a military strategy in which the purpose of armies shifted from winning wars to preventing them. Although cyber attacks per se do not compare to a nuclear explosion, they do pose a serious and increasing threat to international security. Real-world examples suggest that cyber warfare will play a lead role in future international conflicts. This article examines the two deterrence strategies available to nation-states (denial and punishment) and their three basic requirements (capability, communication, and credibility) in the light of cyber warfare. It also explores whether the two most challenging aspects of cyber attacks-attribution and asymmetry-will make cyber attack deterrence an impossible task. © 2010 Xiaolu Zhang. Published by Elsevier Ltd. Allrights reserved.
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