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Resolved: The benefits of the United States federal government’s use of offensive cyber operations outweigh the harms.

Resolved: The benefits of the United States federal government’s use of offensive cyber operations outweigh the harms.

Table of Contents


Three Types of Cyber Security (2019). There are different methods of protecting data. Therefore, Maryville University has devised three cyber security online degree tracks so that aspiring specialists can gain skills and knowledge applicable to the career they want to pursue. These paths are typically broken up as follows:

Offensive Track: Deploys a proactive approach to security through the use of ethical hacking
Defensive Track: Uses a reactive approach to security that focuses on prevention, detection, and response to attacks
General Track: Utilizes a mix of offensive and defensive tactics to provide cyber security


France’s new offensive cyber doctrine (2019). This article doesn’t have any pro or con cards but it does explain what constitutes France’s offensive cyber operations.

Max Smeets, “The Strategic Promise of Offensive Cyber Operations,” Strategic Studies Quarterly (Fall 2018):


General Articles/Books

US increases cyber operations against other countries (2019). This article says the US has started engaging in offensive cyber operations to deter offensive cyber operations from other countries and to prepare to disable networks in the event of a war.


Bytes, Bombs, and Spies. The strategic dimensions of US cyber operations (2018). This 2018 book examines US offensive cyber capabilities.



White House authorizes offensive cyber operations (2019). This article explains the new Presidential Decision Directive that authorizes the use of offensive cyber operations against enemies. I

don’t think it has any evidence in it, but it is useful to read to help understand the topic.


Did America really try to override the Russian power grid? (2019). This article explains how the US military undertook offensive cyber operations against Russia’s electricity grid without informing Trump.


The Pentagon thinks Cyber ops could be the next WMDs (2018). This article explains the growing offensive cyber threats to the US.


Cyberwarfare and nuclear weapons: Game changing (2018). This research paper identifies the general threats to US nuclear security from cyber attacks.


Erik Gartzke and Jon R. Lindsay, “Weaving Tangled Webs: Offense, Defense, and Deception in Cyberspace,”Security Studies 24, no. 2 (2015): 316-48. This article provides a general discussion of offensive and defensive cyber operations as well as how deception could be utilized under each strategy.


Richard Harknett, “United States Cyber Command’s New Vision: What it Entails and Why It Matters,” Lawfare, March 23, 2018,


10. “Gen. Nakasone Lays Out Vision for ‘5th Chapter’ of US Cyber Command,” Meritalk, September 7, 2018,


Ben Buchanan,The Cybersecurity Dilemma (London: Hurst Publishers, 2017).  This book discussed the general pros and cons


Joshua Rovner and Tyler Moore, “Does the Internet Need a Hegemon?”Journal of Global Security Studies 2, no. 3 (July 2017): 184–203.


22. Benjamin Jensen, “The Cyber Character of Political Warfare,”Brown Journal of World Affairs 24, no. 1 (Fall/Winter 2017–18): 159–71];


Brandon Valeriano, Benjamin Jensen, and Ryan C. Maness,Cyber Strategy: The Evolving Character of Power and Coercion (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2018).


The impact of cyberwarfare on deterrence (2019) Cyber war is a subject that is highly contested among strategists and experts. This brief assesses the impact of cyber operations against strategic targets and demonstrates that while cyber war is a real phenomenon, it is far from producing decisive outcomes. The cyberspace is a medium to conduct military operations and several countries have made investments in capabilities to both attack and defend against cyber-attacks. The brief evaluates the relative strengths of offence and defence and the extent to which it favours the strong against the weak. It considers whether cyber capabilities create asymmetric advantages, thereby undermining nuclear deterrence and strategic stability. The extensive use of cyberspace creates opportunities as well as challenges and vulnerabilities for countries that possess cyber capabilities.


General Pro


Bolton says the US is expanding offensive cyber operations (2019). This article says the US jams Russian servers to stop election interference and retaliates against those who commit economic espionage.


US ramps up offensive cyber operations (2019). The U.S. is beginning use offensive cyber measures in response to commercial espionage, President Trump’s national security adviser, John Bolton, said Tuesday “We’re now looking at — beyond the electoral context — a whole range of other activities to prevent this other kind of cyber interference … in the economic space, as well,” Bolton said while speaking at The Wall Street Journal’s CFO Network annual meeting.


The rationale for offensive cyber capabilities (2016). This article contends that defensive cyber capabilities are not enough and that offensive capabilities are needed to prevail in a modern war.


Dawn of the Cold War – America’s Battle Against Russia, China, and the Rising Cyber Threat (2019). In this dramatic book, former Assistant Attorney General John P. Carlin takes readers to the front lines of a global but little-understood fight as the Justice Department and the FBI chases down hackers, online terrorist recruiters, and spies. Today, as our entire economy goes digital, from banking to manufacturing to transportation, the potential targets for our enemies multiply. This firsthand account is both a remarkable untold story and a warning of dangers yet to come.


United States Cyber Command, Achieve and Maintain Cyberspace Superiority: Command Vision for US Cyber Command, June. This document is not especially useful, but it has some good general evidence about cyber threats.


General Con


The Myth of Cyber Offense: The Case for Restraint (2019). We demonstrate that, while cyber operations to date have not been escalatory or particularly effective in achieving decisive outcomes, recent policy changes and strategy pronouncements by the Trump administration increase the risk of escalation while doing nothing to make cyber operations more effective. These changes revolve around a dangerous myth: offense is an effective and easy way to stop rival states from hacking America. New policies for authorizing preemptive offensive cyber strategies risk crossing a threshold and changing the rules of the game.


Why cyber operations did not always favor the offense (2017). Creating unnecessary vulnerabilities. Making offensive cyber operations a national priority can increase instabilities in international relations and worsen national vulnerabilities to attack. But because the skills needed for offense and defense are similar, military offensive readiness can be maintained by focusing on defensive operations that make the world safer, rather than on offensive operations….Prioritizing offensive operations can increase adversaries’ fears, suspicions, and readiness to take offensive action. Cyber offenses include cyber exploitation (intelligence gathering) and cyberattack (disrupting, destroying, or subverting an adversary’s computer systems). An adversary can easily mistake defensive cyber exploitation for offensive operations because the distinction is a matter of intent, not technical operation. The difficulty of distinguishing between offensive and defensive tactics makes mistrustful adversaries more reactive, and repeatedly conducting offensive cyber operations only increases distrust. A focus on offensive operations can also increase vulnerabilities; for example, secretly stockpiling information about vulnerabilities in computers for later exploitation, rather than publicizing and helping civil society to mitigate those


Nuclear deterrence in a Cyberar-ia (2016). This article argues that offensive cyber operations increase the risk of nuclear war because countries have incentives to use nuclear weapons before their ability to launch them is disrupted by cyber warfare.


Herb Lin and Max Smeets, “What Is Absent From the U.S. Cyber Command ‘Vision’,” Lawfare, May 3, 2018,


Department of Defense Science Board,Task Force on Cyber as a Strategic Capability Executive Summary, (Washington: Department of Defense, 2018)


General Pro — NATO


NATO Getting More Aggressive on Offensive Cyber (2019). This article says that NATO members have agreed to develop offensive cyber capabilities. Abandoning such capabilities may obviously hurt the alliance.


The role of offensive cyber operations in NATO’s Collective Defense (2015). This article from 2015 explains that NATO needs to adopt offensive cyber capabilities in order to deter Russia. There are also general deterrence links.






US cyber attack hurt Iran’s ability to target oil tankers (2019).This article contends that US cyber attacks have disrupted Iran’s ability to disrupt shipping in the Strait of Hormuz.


Pentagon launched secret digital strike on Iranian spy group: report (2019) U.S. Cyber Command launched a retaliatory digital strike Thursday night against an Iranian spy group responsible for last week’s bombings of two oil tankers, Yahoo News reported, citing two former intelligence officials. The group, which is affiliated with the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, has

reportedly digitally tracked and targeted military and civilian vessels passing through the Strait of Hormuz over the past several years, enabling it today to launch attacks on ships in the region.

Iranian hackers launch a new US campaign as tensions rise (2019). This article examines increase hacking by Iran post Trump’s withdrawal from the nuclear deal.






How not to prevent a cyber war with Russia (2019). This article argues that offensive cyber operations risk an escalating conflict with Russia, that there are better approaches to deterrence with Russia, that threat against civilian infrastructure are immoral, and that it risks accidental and miscalculated warfare.


We’ve entered a new age of cyberwar (2019). This article argues offensive cyber operations can easily trigger “hair trigger” escalation and conflict.  The article argues they are especially dangerous against Russia.


Cyber Attacks Bad


Offensive cyber operations and nuclear weapons (2019). The potential use of offensive cyber operations against nuclear systems will increase the possibility of war in the future and pose an urgent risk due to the vulnerabilities that exist in nuclear infrastructure. From network attacks, man-in-the- middle attacks, packet sniffing, denial of service attacks (DDOS), Wi-Fi attacks, cyber-spoofing, supply chain attacks, radio attacks, crypto attacks, rubber ducky attacks, air-gapped network attacks, spyware attacks and more, malicious actors have a range of tools that can jeopardize the integrity of nuclear command, control, and communication (C3) systems. This study will explore the offensive cyber threats that threaten nuclear command and control systems.