Cyberwar strategy and game theory

By | March 24, 2017

Whether a nation should retaliate against a cyber attack is a complicated decision, and a new framework guided by game theory could help policymakers determine the best strategy. The “Blame Game” was developed in part by Robert Axelrod, a professor at the Ford School of Public Policy who is well known for solving a version of the classic game theory scenario known as “the prisoner’s dilemma.” The new study examines when a victim should tolerate a cyber attack, when a victim should respond—and how. It turns out that in many cases it may be rational for nations to tolerate cyber attacks, even in the face of strong public criticism. “You might think you should always publicly blame and retaliate in a cyberwarfare situation,” Axelrod said. “But that’s not true. The reason it’s not is that the attacker may not be vulnerable. It may not matter whether they’re blamed or not. And if that’s true, you might be in a situation where if you assign blame, your own people would expect you to do something, but there’s nothing you can do.”

Three male army personnel sitting at computer screens.

Monitoring a simulated test at Central Control Facility at Eglin Air Force Base. (Wikimedia)