Stigmatizing cyber war: mission impossible?

Dr Brian Mazanec, Patricia Shamai

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution


This paper addresses the question of whether a stigma associated with cyber warfare could ever emerge. It examines whether there would be enough of a mass ‘reaction’ to the prospect of cyber warfare and would this then promote an international response and international consensus towards the control and proscription of cyber weapons? The authors unpack the norms associated with cyber warfare and relate these to research addressing the development of the stigmatization of WMD. Comparing the WMD threat with that of cyber warfare, we argue that at present while cyber warfare is characterized as unique, a stigma does not exist towards the threat of cyber warfare. This is because the cyber threat is secretive, diffuse and lacks a clear definition. Cyber threats range in scale, effect and lack an association with “mass destruction”. For these reasons it has been difficult to gather international consensus to constrain cyber threats. We argue that cyber norms do matter and greater attention needs to be paid to ways in which a stigma fostering these norms can develop. We offer some suggestions and stress that further knowledge and understanding of this subject can enhance academic and policy insight to address cyber warfare threats within the context of changing world politics.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationProceedings of the 2016 International Conference on Cyber Conflict (CyCon U.S.)
PublisherInstitute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Inc.
Number of pages8
ISBN (Electronic)9781509052585
ISBN (Print)9781509061723
Publication statusPublished - 2 Feb 2017
Event2016 International Conference on Cyber Conflict (CyCon U.S.) - Washington, United States
Duration: 21 Oct 201623 Oct 2016


Conference2016 International Conference on Cyber Conflict (CyCon U.S.)
Country/TerritoryUnited States


  • international norms
  • stigma
  • cyber warfare

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