A strategic utility analysis of cyber weapons



Max Smeets, CISAC

Date and Time

November 2, 2017 3:30 PM - 5:00 PM


Open to the public.

No RSVP required


William J. Perry Conference Room

Encina Hall, 2nd floor

616 Serra Street

Stanford, CA 94305

Abstract: What is the strategic value of cyber weapons? Even though a growing body of research has addressed the destructive potential of cyber weapons, there remains a large gap in thinking about the strategic utility of these capabilities. The purpose of this paper is to partially fill this gap, by means of assessing under what conditions 'counterforce’ and ‘countervalue’ cyber weapons can be effective. I argue that cyber weapons can provide an ‘extra option’ to leaders. The discussed cases suggest that they can be used both as an important force-multiplier enabler for conventional military assets or as independent capability. Cyber weapons can also be used to achieve a form of psychological ascendancy and can be used effectively with few casualties.

Speaker Bio: Max Smeets is a cybersecurity fellow at the Center for International Security and Cooperation and holds a DPhil in International Relations from the University of Oxford, St. John’s College. Max current book project focuses on the causes underlying cyber proliferation and restraint. The results of this research are valuable for understanding the likely changes in the future prevalence of cyber weapons. It clarifies to what degree this is an ‘inevitable’ development – and if/how it can be stopped.

Max was a College Lecturer in Politics at Keble College, University of Oxford, and Research Affiliate of the Oxford Cyber Studies Programme. He was also a Carnegie Visiting Scholar at Columbia University SIPA and a Doctoral Visiting Scholar at Sciences Po CERI. He holds an undergraduate degree from University College Roosevelt, Utrecht University, and an M.Phil in International Relations from the University of Oxford, Brasenose College.  Max has a diverse professional background, having worked for financial, political, and non-governmental organizations.




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