Most scholars and policymakers claim that cyberspace favors the offense; a minority of scholars disagree. Sweeping claims about the offense-defense balance in cyberspace are misguided because the balance can be assessed only with respect to specific organizational skills and technologies. The balance is defined in dyadic terms, that is, the value less the costs of offensive operations and the value less the costs of defensive operations. The costs of cyber operations are shaped primarily by the organizational skills needed to create and manage complex information technology efficiently. The current success of offense results primarily from poor defensive management and the relatively simpler goals of offense; it can be very costly to exert precise physical effects using cyberweapons. An empirical analysis shows that the Stuxnet cyberattacks on Iran's nuclear facilities very likely cost the offense much more than the defense. The perceived benefits of both the Stuxnet offense and defense, moreover, were likely two orders of magnitude greater than the perceived costs, making it unlikely that decisionmakers focused on costs.

You do not currently have access to this content.