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Choosing the right cyberattack response is a complicated game

New analysis offers a framework for deciding on cyber retaliation

9:00am, March 3, 2017

HACK REACT  Responding to a cyberattack isn’t straightforward; a new game theory analysis reveals when a counterattack is and isn’t a good strategy.

Many Americans were outraged over Russia’s e-mail hacking during the 2016 presidential election and expected a vigorous response from the U.S. government. But new research that views cyberattacks from a game theory perspective suggests that the delayed response was a sound one.

While instinct suggests that such attacks deserve swift retaliation, viewing cyberwarfare through a mathematical lens can reveal situations where that knee-jerk response is useless. The new study, published online February 27 in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, explores various cyberattack scenarios as games of strategy where rational choices are made by the attacker and the victim. This game theory analysis finds that how or even whether to respond to an attack depends on how much and what the players know about each other.

The take-home message of the study is sobering, says Jon Lindsay,

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