Fleet Cyber command

The U.S. Failed to Execute Its Cyberstrategy—and Russia Pounced

January 06, 2021
Rob Knake

This is a summary of an article originally published by Foreign Affairs with the subheading: "Even the Best Playbook Is Useless If You Don’t Follow It."

Knake writes that the U.S. cybersecurity  "requires not a new grand cyberstrategy but the discipline and resources to implement the current one.” President-elect Joe Biden's administration "must not only improve the United States’ ability to detect and disrupt hacking campaigns but also respond to Russia’s intrusion in a way that deters future cyber-aggression." Knake argues that if attacks, such as the recent SolarWinds hack, are determined to be destructive in nature "an in-kind response could be justified, such as turning off the lights in Moscow.” That said, "[i]f ... Russia’s goal was espionage, it will be harder to justify such a punitive response. Moscow will not have violated any norms of intelligence gathering—spies spy, after all."  The incoming Biden administration "may wish to consider promoting new norms that would make this kind of widespread intelligence collection unacceptable.” Knake concludes that  “[t]he challenge for the incoming administration will be to devise a response to the SolarWinds hack that is in some way proportional but that does not replicate Moscow’s bad behavior. Such a response will have to telegraph to the Russians which aspects of its hacking campaign were acceptable and which the United States is declaring out of bounds.”

Read the full article at Foreign Affairs.


Rob Knake

Rob Knake is Whitney H. Shepardson Senior Fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations and a nonresident fellow at Harvard’s Belfer Center.

Photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Samuel Souvannason shared in the public domain.