The Pervasive Cyberthreat That Goes Unchallenged: The Washington Post

On November 25th, 2011, the Washington Post ran an op-ed from Jack Goldsmith, a Harvard Law Professor and one of the founders of the blog Lawfare.  Mr. Goldsmith made some great points when he argued that the DOD's most recent report establishing the president's ability to use offensive cyberattack is kind of a paper tiger.  That report was meant to establish a US cyber deterrent, but in reality, it may have shown weakness in the US deterrence policy.  Mr. Goldsmith points out that the Pentagon can respond to "significant" cyberattacks, not necessarily the small-scale cyberattacks that the US faces every day.  These smaller cyberattacks are the ones that make off with our intellectual property and represent a "more pervasive" and "more serious national security threat."

Mr. Goldsmith goes on to say that the US government has been passive in the face of cyber exploitations because 1) the US engages in cyber exploitation itself and 2) "cyber exploitations do not violate international law, and thus would not justify a large-scale military response."  So where do we find ourselves?  The US can use offensive cyber weapons in the face of a significant cyberattack, but in reality, it's unlikely that any nation-state with the ability to carry out such a significant cyberattack has the cojones to do so.  Simultaneously, we're bleeding billions of dollars in intellectual property through cyber exploitation/espionage that we can't respond to.  In essence, Mr. Goldsmith finds that "the government has yet to threaten a response to the most common and currently damaging cyberthreats and has limited its public threats to low-probability, large-scale attacks."

After noting problems with attribution, Mr. Goldsmith suggests that the US government respond to these low-level cyberattacks through a mix of low-level retaliation, political and diplomatic sanctions, and my favorite: "publication of embarrassing secrets about foreign governments…"


Putin…like some of Vladimir Putin's old modeling photos.

Source: Public domain/Wikimedia Commons

Mr. Goldsmith's big point?  Cyber exploitation is a problem, and the US deterrence policy will lack teeth until the US government addresses it.

The source article can be found here.

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Professor William Snyder

Professor William C. Snyderis a member of the faculty of the Institute for National Security and Counter-terrorism at Syracuse University after fifteen years with the United States Department of Justice.

Ryan D. White

Ryan D. WhiteRyan is currently a third year law student at Syracuse University College of Law, and is also pursuing a Master of Public Administration degree from Syracuse’s Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs. Ryan spent time with Homeland Security Investigations while pursuing his undergraduate degree at Wesleyan University, and spent his first summer of law school as clerk for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Western District of New York. He is a member of Syracuse Law Review, the Journal on Terrorism and Security Analysis, and participates in the Veteran’s Legal Clinic. Full biography

Shelby E. Mann

Ryan D. WhiteShelby is a second year law student at the Syracuse University College of Law. She is the 2018-9 Editor in Chief of the Syracuse Law Review, as well as a member of the Journal on Terrorism and Security Analysis, and the senior editor for the Syrian Accountability Project. During her final year at the University of Missouri, she served as a full-time news producer for ABC 17 News. Shelby spent her first summer of law school at the Shelby County District Attorney General's Office in Memphis, Tenn., in the Public Corruption and Economic Crimes Unit. Full biography

Christopher w. FolkChristopher W. Folk

is a 2017 graduate of SU College of Law. A non-traditional student, Christopher returned to academia after spending nearly twenty years in the high tech industry. Christopher served in the Marine Corps, graduated from Cornell University with a B.S. In Applied Economics and Business Management, attended Northeastern University’s High-Tech MBA Program and received a M.S. In Computer Information Systems. Christopher previously worked in Software Engineering. Christopher is currently serving his second term as Town Justice for the Town of Waterloo. Christopher externed with a Cybersecurity firm in the Washington, D.C. area between his first and second year at SU College of Law. Full biography

Anna Maria Castillo

Anna Maria Castillois 2016 graduate of Syracuse College of Law. She also holds a Master of Arts in International Relations from Syracuse University's Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs. She has interned at a London-based think-tank that specializes in transnational terrorism and global security and at the legal department of a defense contractor. She served as an executive editor in the Syracuse Law Review. Full biography

Jennifer A. CamilloJennifer A. Camillo

is a 2015 graduate of Syracuse College of Law and is a prosecutor. She has served as a law clerk in the United States Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of New York and the Cayuga County District Attorney’s Office and as an extern in the Oneida County District Attorney’s Office. She was a member of the Syracuse National Trial Team and was awarded the Tiffany Cup by the New York Bar Association for her trial advocacy achievements.

Tara J. PistoreseTara J. Pistorese

holds Juris Doctor and Masters of Public Administration degrees from Syracuse University's Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs and its College of Law. She wrote for this blog when a student. She is now a member of the U.S. Army Judge Advocate General's Corps.

Benjamin Zaiser

is both a scholar and a Federal Agent of the Federal Criminal Police Office of Germany. (Opinions expressed here are his own and not any part of official duty.) Full biography


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