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Is there a cyber security dilemma?

Beckerman, Carly E (2022) 'Is there a cyber security dilemma?', Journal of Cybersecurity, 8 (1). tyac012.


In recent years, scholars, commentators and politicians have discussed the prospect of a ‘cyber security dilemma’. If states race to develop superior cyberattacks, how far might this escalate? Are state-led cyberattacks likely to provoke a full war? To address these related questions, I apply a multi-level Neoclassical Realist framework that progresses from systemic logic to an assessment of leader cues and cognition. This contributes much-needed coherence to debates about escalation and cyber warfare and demonstrates the framework’s utility for addressing contemporary and evolving problems in international affairs. The framework reveals that, according to both a systemic and societal cue analysis, fears regarding unchecked escalation from state competition in cyberspace to kinetic warfare are largely unfounded. Nevertheless, it also points toward one caveat and direction for further research in that cyber warfare directed at foreign leaders’ political survival may be unexpectedly provocative in a way not currently addressed by escalation models.

Item Type:Article
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Publisher statement:© The Author(s) 2022. Published by Oxford University Press. This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (, which permits unrestricted reuse, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
Date accepted:24 August 2022
Date deposited:20 September 2022
Date of first online publication:19 September 2022
Date first made open access:20 September 2022

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