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Factors Explaining Cyber Attacks in the USA Research Paper


Every major player is working on this technology of artificial intelligence. As of now, it is benign…….but I would say that the day is not far off when artificial intelligence as applied to cyber warfare becomes a threat to everybody.

-Ted Bell

Cyber threats are threatening to tear apart the American fabric. Right from the emergence of heightened cybercrime, fears of criminal such as terrorists taking advantage of digital platforms, corporate and even state cyber surveillance systems, the matter of cyber security has generally become extremely important not only American issue but also global issue (The NIS 2009, 2-4).

In the United States, there have been some concerted efforts to dealing with the issue of cyber threats (The NIS 2009, 12-14). Some of these efforts include establishing strong surveillance systems. Other efforts include enactment of tough laws around the issue of cyber security (US Congress 2009, 2-3).

Yet these endeavors have not been any successful in dealing with cyber security as most of government databases, state databases and organizational databases have continued to falling to hackers (US Department of Justice 2010, 2-7). Thus, this paper will be guided by the following research question:

What is the reason behind the continued threats of cyber attacks in the United States of America?”

Even though cyber threats are borderless and also an international phenomena, different countries have their national mechanisms to protect their institutions from being susceptible to cyber attackers. Based on the fact that cyber criminals have no specific place that they can come from, this paper will also touch on close and systematic global cooperation between United States and internal partners specifically in terms of monitoring, tracking, restricting and disciplining those who take part in this heinous act.

Thus, in order to fully answer this research question, the paper will also look at approaches (such as task forces or agencies), undertakings (programs and missions), agreements (treaties, conventions.) as well as challenges (the issues that hinder creation of preventive mechanisms).

Thus, the paper will briefly review existing literature particularly on the topic of cyber security in the USA, outlining the main hypothesis, study variables as well as core parameters. The paper will also explain what cyber threats really are and for purposes of elucidation give some specific examples and the existing variations. It must be understood that in order to understand the cyber issues in the USA, it is also good to relate it to international framework as cyber threat is an international phenomenon.


This paper will show that diverse values or considerations directly cause a lack of concerted efforts to stem the issue of cyber threat in the United States. As such, the main hypothesis to this study is that when values or concerns of a nation with other partners are similar, the higher the agreement on common agenda towards dealing with cyber attacks or threats.

Review of the Literature

There are two types of cyber threats: cyber warfare and cybercrime. Cyber warfare is not common but it mainly involves people who target the key infrastructural facilities of other countries (Colbaugh and Glass 2012). Cyber crime is the most common type of cyber threat and usually done with the intention of hacking into or accessing private information for their own use. For instance, criminal can target bank details of people so that they can steal money from those accounts.

Nearly all of the available literature on cyber threats or security emphasizes the contribution of communication and information technologies to virtually all societal sectors (Colbaugh and Glass 2012). Obviously, the import of information in today’s changing times cannot be underestimated.

At the same time, the increasing digitalization of most systems, has made it easier to access information and at the same time these systems has become more predisposed or susceptible than in any other times in human history. In other words, now more than ever the potential destruction of cyber attacks in the United States is beyond measure.

In fact, one of the greatest cyber threats is the potential attacks on various vital infrastructural facilities, such as military, financial services, power, transport sector and even telecommunication (Cooper 2005, 2-4). Even though it is hard to quantify the likely cost of these threats, the fact is that cyber attacks can be disastrous and damaging in terms of economics. In international domain, cyber attackers have directed their efforts towards major infrastructures such as the banking sector.

A number of scholars who have significantly contributed to cyber security topic seem to indicate that cyber threat is a new wave of war. In fact, this might be one of the major reasons why many countries have been developing strategies on how to develop systems that counter the danger associated with cyber attacks.

In 2009, for instance, the United States president declared digital infrastructure a strategic element of national interest (Clark 2012, 2-3). In 2010, the United States of America followed by setting up a Cyber Command center in order to protect the most targeted American military infrastructure as well as attacks on other systems in the country (George 2008, 3-7).

However, even with the endeavors to develop protective cyber capabilities by individual countries, on international platform this has not been considerably addressed. It has been acknowledged that one of the problems of having concerted effort at international level is the lack of vivid and generally accepted definitions on relevant concepts and terms to cyber threats (Clark 2012, 5-9).

In fact, there exist many conventions that give contradictory definition on cyber threat. For instance, under Article 51 of the United Nations Charter provides for the right of individual countries to take part in self-defense, including joint effort in self-defense, against any attack. The Lisbon treaty espouses a solidarity clause that provides for the shared responsibility in dealing with threats that emanate from outside.

This clause provides that in the event that a Member State has been attacked, other Member States shall provide the much needed help in line with Article 51 of UN charter. These clauses and articles do not mention cyber attacks as a form of aggression. Therefore, it is not very clear on how to collectively approach the issue. If it can be viewed as such, then cyber attacks could possibly merit an international response.

Over and above everything else, to-date despite being informational age, it is hard to believe that there is reliable no literature that directly relate or connect cyber security aspects to international relations which is key to managing the implications that are associated with cyber attacks (George 2008, 7-13).

A large percentage of existing literature relates to policy making and not aim at theoretical advancement. This is a huge set back as it is likely that the solution to cyber attacks could also involve power changing games and theoretical considerations in terms of powers of leaders and countries.

In conclusion, cyber threats are real. However, the literature on this issue is still not sufficient as the existing literature is only sponsored by government agencies and its aim is not to advance the existing theory but specifically for policymaking. The amount work in this field though is encouraging but has only been as a result of the growing interest in the issue of cyber attacks.

In other words, the academic works that have been done so far are as a result of populist views and not aimed at delving deep into theoretical framework of the issue in a way that advances or challenges the existing literature. Because of this, most of existing literature is more experimental and lacks the theoretical gist.

However, the good thing is that there is an overwhelming agreement on the different types of cyber threats. Furthermore, as it has been through different conventions, there is a near worldwide concurrence regarding the need for a shared response or participation in order to sufficiently deal and completely contain the issue of cyber attacks and associated threats.

Methodology and Research Strategy

Largely, this will be a retrogressive study heavily reliant on existing secondary and primary published studies. To begin with, the study will examine different existing cyber threats and their implications (George 2008, 7-13). To illustrate the diverse nature of cyber attacks in the United States of America, the paper will examine a number cyber attacks or threats.

Since cyber threat is not just a local affair, the study will also provide pertinent statistics in relation to the scale of cyber incidents, related trends as well as their connotations in terms of economics largely in the United states but will also touch on international platform briefly. All these consideration are important particularly in showing the degree and extent of cyber threat in order to show that it is second to none for all actors if a cyberspace that is secure in the USA has to be achieved.

In answering the research question, the paper will make use of several different sources of data or information. For instance, whilst evaluating the United Nations, the paper will mainly look at the different strategies agreed upon by member countries to enhance the issue of cyber security. In this context, the aim will be to examine whether resolutions by United Nations support the United States in improving security of its targeted infrastructures (George 2008, 7-13).

In addition, when looking at the UN, the emphasis will be on the participants, their participation level, degree of concurrence, where they come from as well as their concerns. In the end, the paper will underline challenges that the United States face in connection to cyber attacks. As such, this will help in relating other major preventing factors to values espoused by United States in terms of cyberspace and cyber protection.


In exploring threats to cyber attacks in the United States of America, the independent variable will be the diverse societal and political values. This will be in relation to support, preferences, or concerns to cyber threats. The dependent variable is that there is no concerted effort to stem the issue of cyber threats in the United States of America. Mostly, this issue stems from the fact that there are no tangible unilateral agreements on dealing with this issue.

Analysis and Findings

Cyber Threats

For the purposes of simplicity and clarity, cyber threats faced in the United States are classified into two major classes, that is, cybercrime and cyber warfare (Clark 2012, 2-7).

Cyber warfare is an aberrant cyber undertaking that directly endangers the national security, the capability of defense systems and critical infrastructural systems of a country. Espionage is an act of cyber warfare. It involves accessing of information that is highly sensitive, manipulation of defense systems, as well as making sure that critical infrastructural systems are disrupted.

These forms of attacks are carried out by criminal elements, or terrorists. On the other hand, cybercrime are criminal or heinous activities carried out using hand held devices or internet enabled computers (Colbaugh and Glass 2012, 4-7). Unlike cyber warfare, cybercrimes is associated with things such as unauthorized access or stealing of private information. This particularly involves people who want to access bank details of other people.

Business espionage and hacking of personal accounts and websites are examples of cybercrime. Whenever cyber warfare is committed there is usually a political connotation to it especially the drive for self determination. Cybercrime, on the other hand, is mainly done in groups and for fun just to test the security of certain websites or personal accounts.

Different forms of cyber attacks in the USA are committed through various methods or ways. DDoS or simply Denial of service attack (DoS) is one way of committing cyber attacks (The NIS 2009, 2-17). These types of cyber attacks are very common in the US as they are easy to commit, as they do not even require advanced skills in computer programming. Cyber criminals usually take advantage of network tools such as LOIC to access or hack a particular website or personal account.

Malware is the method that is widely used for committing cyber attacks. In fact, as it has been established, it accounts for about seventy percent of all cybercrime related attacks. Though still under research, what is known about malware is that it may entail the use of computer viruses (Cooper 2005, 34-42).

This leads to replication of programs making it hard for owners to access their information or making it easier to read any information fed in the computer for easier retrieval of information needed. In other words, viruses can actually be made or programmed in a way that makes it easier to perform diverse actions. They can alter other programs or delete files in targeted websites thus permitting access to unauthorized persons.

In the United States of America, Cyber criminals have also been targeting private entities and companies. For instance, Citigroup was in 2011 attacked and personal information including credit cards was stolen. Still in 2011, another attack was reported on the United States defense system as well as Aerospace Corporation, which produces US military choppers (Clark 2012, 15-23).

Though it was reported that the attack caused minimal damage, the gist of the issue is that it took several day to completely restore the services and process to normalcy. These effects are not just specific to United States. For instance, it has been established that these cyber threats and attacks in the USA has been offering some insight into the increased cyber attack activities globally. For instance, over the last five years or so, cyber threats particularly in United States federally run organizations have grown by over six hundred percent.

This trend is attributed to the increasing advancement of hackers in terms of skills and sponsoring bodies. In fact, a number of reports show that in 2011 alone cybercrime claimed over three hundred billion USD globally (Colbaugh and Glass 2012, 23-27). Furthermore, in 2010 it was reported that cybercrime cost US medium scale companies close to thirty six million USD each.

This when put together, let’s say, fifty companies were affected then it become an issue that cannot be ignored. Some companies spent this money on protective mechanisms while others used the money to compensate clients or partners who lost their investments in the process (Colbaugh and Glass 2012, 28-34).

The United Nation

The cyber security issue has also been the main concern for United Nations. In fact, the main endeavor in responding to cyber threats started when Russia introduced a resolution to deal and manage the developments in the domain of information but in relation to international security in 1999 (Cooper 2005, 7-9).

However, ten years later the United States of America has not supported the resolution despite the incressing number of sponsors to the resolution. The reason behind the move by the US is possibly on differing values. When taking into consideration the likelihood of an accord on international cyber security the United States has a number of considerations that are very specific in its own context (George 2008, 34-38).

Being the most advanced country in terms of technology, entering into external deals on cyber threats would not be a well thought strategic deliberation, as it would likely limit the capability of its highly supported cyber protection program (US Department of Justice 2010, 34-56). what’s more, the fact that it was fronted by Russia as well other dictatorial leadership across the globe, the United States considers it as a well orchestrated attempt to limit the superiority of United States as well as its strategic advantage in the area of cyber security.


From the discussion, particular on international effort, a number of divisions seem to emerge that are the main reason as to why it is hard to agree on the way forward on comprehensive international response to the issue cyber threat.

However, there seem to be a common consensus across the planet on the costs associated with cyber threats as well as the expediency needed to manage the issue. Nearly, all parties involved in the field of cyber security ranging from scholars to leaders, concur that since it is an international issue, the only way forward is to come up with solutions that are fundamentally international in nature.

Most of the global endeavors to avert threats associated with cyber attacks have been so experimental in nature. This therefore means that they only aim at enhancing consciousness, offering suggestions on best practices, keeping an eye on cyber activities, supporting the development of local or national laws on cyber security.

It is no doubt these endeavors have actually been successful on various levels, however, they seem not to make attempts in terms of developing an inclusive international platform for combating cyber crimes. Instead, they only attempt to support petite answers for countrywide, governmental, private entity or companies to manage the issue. This as it has been seen stems from the difficulty of reaching a bipartisan international agreement due to differing values of individual countries such as the United States.

In this case, for the mind of all players to be ad idem, a range of deliberations need to considered first before thinking of agreements that viable, significant and functional in terms of enhancing cyber security. This comprises globally accepted definitions of cyber threats, which have also been found to be a major issue hindering advances on cyber security. This is basically espoused in Lisbon treaty and article 51 under UN charter.

Due to varying values of different countries, conflicting laws as well as strategies to the issue of controlling cybercrimes can subsist on diminutive levels. For instance, most countries have agreement on sharing information relating to cyber security, however there are concerns that some legal protection may not be given to them (United States).

The United States also does not consent to such international agreements due to the fear of additional procedures, which would contradict the US constitutional provision on freedom of expression. Thus, what ails or makes it difficult for international players to agree on the way forward on matters relating to cyber security, is purely because of the differences in existing legislations stemming from their fundamental values.

However, these challenges can be surmounted through effective collaboration as well as the development of an all-inclusive international response to threats associated with cyber attacks. Though the US has mechanisms for dealing with the issue, it cannot be able to win the war on cyber threats alone, as it is an international phenomenon.

As it has been established, a disconnection exists in literature in relation to theoretical conceptions especially the theory of international relations, future studies should emphasize these aspects. Mainly this is based on the fact that cyber threats are increasing an international affair and not restricted with borders and certain organizations. In addition, more research is needed to find out the best approaches controlling of cybercrimes, as this is one of the points where most countries differ on collective approach to cyber security.

Reference List

Bell, Ted. ““. Web.

Clark, Robert M. Intelligence Analysis: A Target-Centric Approach, 4th Edition. Washington, D.C.: CQ Press. 2012.

Colbaugh, Richard, and Kristin Glass. “.” Sandia Report: (2012). Web.

Cooper, Jeffrey. 2005. “.” Center for Study of Inteligence, (December 2005). Web.

George, Roger. Analyzing Intelligence: Origins, Obstacles, and Innovations. Washington: Georgetown University Press. 2008.

The NIS. 2009. “.” NIS Report, (August 2009). Web.

US Congress. 2009. S. 1438. A bill presented at 111TH CONGRESS 1ST SESSION, Washington Dc: US Congress.

. 2010. “Solutions and approaches for a cohesive plan to improve our nation’s ability to share criminal intelligence.” The National Criminal Intelligent Program, May 20. Web.

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IvyPanda. (2019) 'Factors Explaining Cyber Attacks in the USA'. 8 August.

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