On March 7th, the Oxford Centre for Technology and Global Affairs welcomed Dr. Max Smeets to speak at our last weekly seminar of the term on “Cyber Weapons: What Are They Good For?” Smeets is a cybersecurity fellow at Stanford University Center for International Security and Cooperation (CISAC), and a Research Associate at the Centre for Technology and Global Affairs. He is also a non-resident cybersecurity policy fellow at New America, and a graduate of the University of Oxford Department of Politics and International Relations MPhil and DPhil course.
Smeets’ presentation focused on the nature of cyber weapons as tools of the state. Drawing on classic strategic literature in other domains, he showed how cyber weapons can alter the manner in which countries use their military power in various ways—including to achieve compellence.
The presentation also addressed problems of conflict escalation and the potential symbolic value of cyber weapons as a 'prestige weapon’. The discussion following the talk centered on how certain features of cyber weapons—including their intermittency and problems of verification—affect their potential strategic use.