Should US adopt the Godfather cyber defense doctrine?

While rereading Marion Puzo’s "The Godfather," I came across a helpful suggestion for solving one of the thorniest problems of cyber war today: attribution. Knowing the source of an attack might not be necessary to defending against it, but how do you respond or retaliate if you don’t know who is attacking you?

Vito Corleone addressed this issue in his speech at the Mafia peace conference. He was willing to let bygones be bygones, he said. But he warned against any future interference with his family. “If my son is struck by a bolt of lightning, I will blame some of the people in this room,” he said.

The assembled dons understood. It was in everyone’s best interest that there be no attacks.

This smacks somewhat of Mutually Assured Destruction, the truly mad Cold War nuclear doctrine, but it just might work. If Gen. Keith Alexander, head of the U.S. Cyber Command, were to tell the United Nations that if, God forbid, one of our servers gets a virus or our electric grid goes down, he is going to "blame some of the people in this room," it might be a call to mutual defense they could not refuse.

About the Author

William Jackson is a Maryland-based freelance writer.


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