New Cyber Instability Report Finds Critical Need to Increase U.S. Government Collaboration with Groups Outside of Traditional Security Communities

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Coalition of groups releases new CCSA report that identifies deficiencies in nation's current cyber strategies and outlines recommendations for addressing related security.

The U.S. government must increase collaboration with groups outside of the traditional security communities in order to effectively combat cyber instability, according to a new report released today. The Cyber Conflict Studies Association (CCSA), Atlantic Council and Intelligent Decisions, Inc., joined forces to unveil the new CCSA report entitled Addressing Cyber Instability, which identifies deficiencies in our nation’s current cyber security strategies and then carefully outlines related recommendations for the national security community. The report finds overall that our nation’s strategic cyber environment is marked by an inability to establish credible deterrence and effectively prevent the emergence of adversaries and conflicts in cyberspace – gaps that could be detrimental to U.S. interests.

Specifically, report recommendations include that military and government civilian cyber defense must be increasingly collaborative with other actors, including non-governmental organizations, researchers, corporations, and other groups outside traditional security communities. This could be achieved by utilizing existing groups and information networks, including Network Operator Groups and Computer Emergency Response Teams (CERTS), and institutionalizing ad hoc groups that often collaborate to meet challenges in cyberspace. For example, the Conficker Working Group was a coalition of security researchers and companies that worked successfully to resist and mitigate the impact of the malicious Conficker worm, starting in late 2008 and continuing through June 2010.

Cyber Conflict Studies Association President Dr. Greg Rattray stated, “The goal of this report was to establish the landscape on crucial cyber conflict issues to address while also looking toward approaches to address the most challenging issues facing national and global policymakers. The importance of strategic instability as a fundamental condition facing those who must manage the prevalence and consequences of cyber conflict has significant consequences for how we approach policy, strategy, technology, and risk. Our research also led us to identify the significance of groups, initiatives, and potential approaches that fall outside of the traditional realm of national security policy, but can have real impact on improving cyberspace for everyone. “

“Given the continued focus on traditional approaches for managing cyber conflict and its risks, CCSA has chosen to highlight alternatives that may provide better paths to motivating actions globally to mitigate risks and confront threats,” emphasized Dr. Rattray.

The report also finds that the majority of current research and analysis on cyber conflict focuses on the offensive and exploitative capacity for non-state actors – that is, those not in government, but from the private sector and civilian community. Findings indicate, however, that it is critical to examine the work done by non-state actors in mitigating cyber threats, particularly the advantages and disadvantages of the current state of collaboration, which mostly consists of informal or ad hoc groups joining together to combat specific threats, reaching out to international partners, working at a high speed to develop solutions, and dissipating once the immediate threat is resolved. Identified advantages include higher operational control of the network, flattened organizational structures, increased and informal information sharing, access to technological resources, and access to groups in foreign states where the U.S. Government does not have strong relations. The disadvantages stem from having a base of mostly volunteer responders, limited resources, lessened collaboration once the immediate threat is mitigated, and limited authority. Balancing these aspects should be a critical part of future work in this area.

Additional findings point to the fact that risk management through non-state networks will continue to be a significant research area in the future. However, according to the report, it is critical to develop a risk management approach to cyber security that can avoid some of the political roadblocks in the arena of cyber security and Internet governance by seeking less politically polarizing models.

To this end, the report found that alternative approaches to cyber security, those outside of traditional national security, would benefit U.S. goals and increase overall stability in cyberspace. These include the public health model, which seeks to emulate the established international system for health reporting and outbreak mitigation, and the environmental model, which views malicious activities as "pollution" and encourages clean-up of botnets, worms and viruses as a beneficial endeavor for cyberspace as a whole.

The new CCSA report is a summary of a forthcoming book-length manuscript that is the product of a compelling two-year study, bringing together leading experts in the field to address cyber instability. The full manuscript is expected to be distributed in late summer. To read the new report, please go to


About Cyber Conflict Studies Association:
CCSA is a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting and leading a diversified research agenda in the field of cyber conflict. CCSA's vision is to be the premier thought leader in the field by fostering dialogue, leading research, and developing academic programs focused on the implications of cyber conflict. Visit for more information.

About the Atlantic Council:
The Atlantic Council, now in its fiftieth year, promotes constructive US leadership and engagement in international affairs based on the central role of the Atlantic community in meeting current international challenges. The Council embodies a nonpartisan network of leaders who aim to bring ideas to power and to give power to ideas. For more information, visit

About Intelligent Decisions:
Founded in 1988, Intelligent Decisions, Inc., is a recognized leader in developing and delivering innovative federal IT solutions to the civilian, defense and intelligence communities. For more information, visit

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Michele Anapol
Intelligent Decisions
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