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Earlier this year, American officials acknowledged that U.S. offensive cyber operations had stopped Russian disruption of the 2018 congressional election.Properly used, a new offensive doctrine can reinforce deterrence, not replace it.Deterrence in cyberspace is more like crime: governments can only imperfectly prevent it.There are four major mechanisms to reduce and prevent adverse behavior in cyberspace: threat of punishment, denial by defense, entanglement and normative taboos. A threat of punishment -- or defense, entanglement, or norms -- may deter some actors but not others.Russia's hybrid warfare in Ukraine, and, as the report by U.S. Special Counsel Robert Mueller has shown, its disruption of the U.S. presidential campaign fell into such a gray area.Although ambiguities of attribution for cyberattacks, and the diversity of adversaries in cyberspace, do not make deterrence and dissuasion impossible, they do mean that punishment must play a more limited role than in the case of nuclear weapons. Denial (through hygiene, defense and resilience) plays a larger role in deterring non-state actors than major states, whose intelligence services can formulate an advanced persistent threat. Its goal is not only to disrupt attacks, but also to reinforce deterrence by raising the costs for adversaries.
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