A Lot of Cyber Fizzle, but not a Lot of Bang: Evidence about the Use of Cyber Operations from Wargames

Posted: 4 Mar 2022 Last revised: 8 Apr 2022

See all articles by Jacquelyn Schneider

Jacquelyn Schneider

Stanford University

Benjamin Schechter

Government of the United States of America - U.S. Naval War College

Rachael Shaffer

Government of the United States of America - U.S. Naval War College

Date Written: March 2, 2022

Abstract

Despite a burgeoning focus on cyber and international security, there is still great debate about how cyber operations fit amongst other military and foreign policy means. Are they a substitution option--a way to create similar effects with different, potentially less risky, means? Or are they a support to other means, meant to enable and increase the efficacy of military operations and foreign policy options? Finally, are they a new complement to existing means--a unique way to influence, coerce, and derive military outcomes? The answer to these questions is significant because how cyber operations are used has implications for crisis stability as well as the ways wars are fought. In order to test these theories of cyber and state power, we use a crisis wargame that examines the use of cyberspace operations across a game series played over two years with 500+ players. We find that, despite a general increase in focus within the game on cyber operations, these operations still have little influence on the overall violence of the crises. Instead, cyber operations are primarily used to shape narratives as a complement to diplomacy prior to war and then as a support to military operations after war has escalated. Cyber operations, therefore, show an increasing and important amount of fizzle, but not a lot of bang.

Keywords: cyber, wargame, conflict

Suggested Citation

Schneider, Jacquelyn and Schechter, Benjamin and Shaffer, Rachael, A Lot of Cyber Fizzle, but not a Lot of Bang: Evidence about the Use of Cyber Operations from Wargames (March 2, 2022). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=4048360

Jacquelyn Schneider (Contact Author)

Stanford University ( email )

Stanford, CA 94305
United States

Benjamin Schechter

Government of the United States of America - U.S. Naval War College ( email )

686 Cushing Road
Newport, RI 02841-1207
United States

Rachael Shaffer

Government of the United States of America - U.S. Naval War College ( email )

686 Cushing Road
Newport, RI 02841-1207
United States

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