ACI Journal Articles


Bring on the Cyber Attacks — The Increased Predatory Power of the Reluctant Red Queen in a Nation-State Cyber Conflict

Document Type


USMA Research Unit Affiliation

Army Cyber Institute

Publication Date



The militarized and contested Internet with a multitude of state-sponsored cyberattacks can generate an evolutionary process when the targeted nation is strengthened by the abundance of information it receives from the attacks. When the targeted nation restrains from retaliating against the attacking adversarial state its systems are perfected, meanwhile the attacking state is denied the feedback needed to stay current and pose a long-term threat. The targeted nation has increased its potential to go from prey to predator, when the accrued knowledge far exceeds the attacker, and the game has changed. The targeted nation can then strike back far superior on the initial attacker compared to the initial attacker’s first moves. In contrast to the Red Queen hypothesis, our Restrained Red Queen model illustrates the adaptive advantage of a targeted nation that decides to selectively counterstrike its aggressor. The reticent targeted nation has benefited from restraining to counter-strike and increases its own survivability by embracing the initial attacks as information that can be converted to superiority over time.

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