HKS Authors

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Harvard University Distinguished Service Professor, Emeritus


Two years ago, a piece of faulty computer code infected Iran’s nuclear program and destroyed many of the centrifuges used to enrich uranium. Some observers declared this apparent sabotage to be the harbinger of a new form of warfare, and U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has warned Americans of the danger of a “cyber Pearl Harbor” attack on the United States. But what do we really know about cyber conflict? The cyber domain of computers and related electronic activities is a complex man-made environment, and human adversaries are purposeful and intelligent. Mountains and oceans are hard to move, but portions of cyberspace can be turned on and off by throwing a switch. It is far cheaper and quicker to move electrons across the globe than to move large ships long distances.


Nye, Jr., Joseph S. "What is it That We Really Know About Cyber Conflict?" Daily Star (Lebanon), April 24, 2012.