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Vol. 10 No. 1 | 2023 Edition

Violet Geinger

Grayzone Aggression:
The Need for Deterrence by Denial


Elisabeth Braw

Cyber deterrence needs to rely on a combination of deterrence by punishment of select attacks and deterrence by denial. By definition, punishment means that deterrence has failed, but given that it’s impossible to deter all cyber attacks and intrusions, Western governments with offensive cyber capabilities could retaliate against specific cyber attackers. The harm done to targets of such retaliation and the arbitrary nature of how they’re selected for punishment would increase the cost in most cyber attackers’ cost-benefit analysis. The public also expects the government to avenge, particularly egregious cyber attacks.


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Elisabeth Braw is a senior associate fellow at the European Leadership Network, focusing on defence against grayzone and hybrid threats as well as the intersection between geopolitics and the globalised economy. Her book Goodbye, Globalization: the Return of a Divided World will be published by Yale University Press in February 2024. Elisabeth is also a columnist with Foreign Policy and Politico Europe and the author of The Defender’s Dilemma: Identifying and Deterring Grayzone Aggression (2022). She is a member of GALLOS Technologies’ advisory board, a member of the UK National Preparedness Commission, a member of the Krach Institute for Tech Diplomacy’s advisory council, and an adviser to Willis Towers Watson’s research arm.

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