Triggering the New Forever War, in Cyberspace

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The United States is in the midst of the most resounding policy shift on cyber conflict, one with profound implications for national security and the future of the internet. The just-released U.S. Cyber Command “vision” accurately diagnoses the current state of cyber conflict and outlines an appropriate new operational model for the command: since cyber forces are in “persistent engagement” with one another, U.S. Cyber Command must dive into the fight, actively contesting adversaries farther forward and with more agility and operational partnerships.

The vision, however, ignores many of the risks and how to best address them. Most importantly, the vision does not even recognize the risk that more active defense – in systems and networks in other, potentially friendly nations – persistently, year after year, might not work and significantly increases the chances and consequences of miscalculations and mistakes. Even if they are stabilizing, such actions may be incompatible with the larger U.S. goals of an open and free Internet.

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