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Responding to uncertainty: the importance of covertness in support for retaliation to cyber and kinetic attacks

Hedgecock, Kathryn and Sukin, Lauren (2023) Responding to uncertainty: the importance of covertness in support for retaliation to cyber and kinetic attacks. Journal of Conflict Resolution. ISSN 1552-8766

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Identification Number: 10.1177/00220027231153580

Abstract

This paper investigates the escalation dynamics of cyber attacks. Two main theories have been advanced. First, “means-based” theory argues attack type determines response; cyber attacks are less likely to escalate than kinetic attacks. Second, “effects-based” theory argues an attack’s material consequences determine the likelihood of retaliation. We advance a third perspective, arguing that the covertness of an attack has the largest effect on its propensity towards escalation. We identify two characteristics of covertness that affect support for retaliation: the certainty of attribution and its timing. We use a survey experiment to assess public support for retaliation, while varying the means, effects, timing, and attribution certainty of attacks. We find no evidence for the effects-based approach, instead finding high levels of support for retaliation regardless of an attack’s scale. We find that the most significant contributor to support for retaliation is an attack’s covertness.

Item Type: Article
Official URL: https://journals.sagepub.com/home/JCR
Additional Information: © 2023 The Authors
Divisions: International Relations
Subjects: J Political Science > JZ International relations
J Political Science > JC Political theory
Date Deposited: 17 Jan 2023 15:27
Last Modified: 04 Apr 2023 10:39
URI: http://eprints.lse.ac.uk/id/eprint/117916

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