Cyberdeterrence and Cyberwar.
Article Type:
Book review
Books (Book reviews)
Staffeld, Mel
Pub Date:
Name: Air & Space Power Journal Publisher: U.S. Air Force Audience: Trade Format: Magazine/Journal Subject: Military and naval science; Science and technology Copyright: COPYRIGHT 2011 U.S. Air Force ISSN: 1555-385X
Date: Winter, 2011 Source Volume: 25 Source Issue: 4
NamedWork: Cyberdeterrence and Cyberwar (Nonfiction work)
Reviewee: Libicki, Martin C.

Accession Number:
Full Text:
Cyberdeterrence and Cyberwar by Martin C. Libicki. Rand Corporation ( /pubs.html), 1776 Main Street, Santa Monica, California 90401-3208, 2009, 238 pages, $26.40 (softcover), ISBN 978-0-8330-4734-2.

You're a system administrator running some routine checks on your data-management functions when you come across something that at first looks like nothing more than a system hiccup. Upon closer examination, which includes checking the servers and hardware, you find that some codes and information have been changed, revealing a more serious problem. Is this the work of thrill-seeking hackers, attempted sabotage by internal personnel, or a cyber attack? If the latter, do you retaliate or simply pretend it never happened?

Martin Libicki's Cyberdeterrence and Cyberwar, which addresses the subjects of the book's title in the Internet age, examines cyber war's radical differences from conventional war and the difficulty of implementing and enforcing a policy of cyber deterrence. With regard to a nation that has a policy of cyber deterrence, the author also raises such issues as determining the identity of the attacker, his motive, and the nature of the response (e.g., retaliating, ignoring the incident, or pretending it caused little damage); assessing the importance of such a determination; following a "no tolerance" policy versus attempting to distinguish between a true cyber attack and hacking; and conducting a cyber war or implementing a deterrence strategy, which includes formulating reasons for doing so and ending a war that has no outward signs of damage, casualties, or immediate (theoretically) effects. Libicki concludes by discussing cyber defense, its construction, and its procedures (e.g., "deception methods" and "red teaming," pp. 171 and 173).

The fact that Lt Gen Robert Elder Jr., USAF, retired, former commander of Eighth Air Force and joint functional component commander for space and global strike, US Strategic Command, sponsored Cyberdeterrence and Cyberwar gives it considerable credibility. Readers knowledgeable about the now-global cyber wars (conducted by such groups as Anonymous and LulzSec), as well as readers working as systems administrators and computer designers, should find some of the book's theories and cases familiar. The book's primary strength is that it presents the rapidly developing and ever-changing fields of cyber war and cyber deterrence in a fairly easy-to-comprehend format, free of overly detailed technical terms or information processes.

However, one does find flaws in formatting, organization, and the use of abbreviations that may detract from the study's value and impact. For example, the presence of pages only partially filled with text (e.g., pp. 75, 147, and 149) and of unnecessary hyphenation (e.g., "locked-down" [p. 151], "more-violent" [p. 72], and "flow-rate" [p. 155]) gives the book the feel of a rough draft rather than a finished manuscript. Furthermore, readers find no information about the author, his credentials, his motivation for writing the book, or his methodology. Lastly, the author's inclusion of a list of abbreviations (p. xxiii) with which most people are already familiar seems unnecessary, and his tendency not to reidentify infrequently occurring abbreviations creates difficulty for the reader (e.g., "RF" [p. xxiv], which doesn't appear again until p. 164). Together with the absence of an index and the confusing, poorly explained charts in Appendix B, such flaws are certainly distracting and give readers an unfavorable impression of the book.

Is Cyberdeterrence and Cyberwar relevant to the Air Force community? Despite the abovementioned problems, it does raise interesting questions and theories about cyber warfare and cyber deterrence as well as what they mean to today's military operations and civilians. I recommend it to all military personnel, even those not directly involved in system security or computers in general.

Mel Staffeld

Council Bluffs, Iowa
Gale Copyright:
Copyright 2011 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.