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Is there a cyber security dilemma?

Beckerman, Carly E

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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.


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

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Aug 24, 2022
Online Publication Date Sep 19, 2022
Publication Date 2022
Deposit Date Sep 20, 2022
Publicly Available Date Sep 20, 2022
Journal Journal of Cybersecurity
Print ISSN 2057-2085
Electronic ISSN 2057-2093
Publisher Oxford University Press
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 8
Issue 1
Article Number tyac012
Public URL


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