Public event

Challenges in International Security:
Stuxnet revisited: The limits of our understanding of cyber warfare

Jon Lindsay presents his research on "Stuxnet revisited: The limits of our understanding of cyber warfare". This event is part of the speaker series Challenges in International Security hosted by the Centre for International Security.


Scholars have become more interested in secret statecraft in global politics, especially in its digital manifestations. Unfortunately, the self-hiding nature of the phenomena make them hard to study. Jon Lindsay, Associate Professor at the School of Cybersecurity and Privacy and Sam Nunn School of International Affairs at the Georgia Institute of Technology, points out that this is true in spades of the seminal case of Stuxnet, which has had more influence on our understanding of cyber warfare than cyber warfare ever had on Iranian enrichment. A decade on, new information and subsequent events provide additional context, but this unusual case remains shrouded in unusual secrecy.

This methodological liability can be converted into theoretical insight by viewing the historiography of Stuxnet side-by-side with its history. Cybersecurity is both a strategic and an epistemic interaction, as civil society’s knowledge of cyber exploitation influences the ways in which threat actors exploit civil society. While most studies have considered Stuxnet as a discrete instance of cyber warfare, exemplifying its dangers or its limits, it is better interpreted as one thread in a more complicated tapestry of discreet campaigns unfolding over the course of two decades. If cyber conflict flourishes in the nether regions between peace and war, governments and civil society, anarchy and institutions, and technology and culture, then Stuxnet is all this and more. Stuxnet remains a critical case in cybersecurity because it exemplifies the essential ambivalence of intelligence practice in any era. 


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Jon Lindsay

  • Jon Lindsay is an Associate Professor at the School of Cybersecurity and Privacy and Sam Nunn School of International Affairs at the Georgia Institute of Technology (Georgia Tech). Previously he was at the University of Toronto. He is the author of Information Technology and Military Power (Cornell University Press, 2020) and co-editor of Cross-Domain Deterrence: Strategy in an Era of Complexity (Oxford University Press, 2019), with Erik Gartzke, and China and Cybersecurity: Espionage, Strategy, and Politics in the Digital Domain (Oxford University Press, 2015), with Tai Ming Cheung and Derek Reveron, as well as publications in international relations, intelligence studies, and the sociology of technology. He is currently working on a book project called "Age of Deception: Intelligence and Cybersecurity in International Relations." He holds a Ph.D. in political science from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and an M.S. in computer science and B.S. in symbolic systems from Stanford University. He has also served in the U.S. Navy with assignments in Europe, Latin America, and the Middle East.