Date Presented

Spring 5-2011

Document Type


Degree Name

Bachelor of Science


Political Science

First Advisor

Dr. Marek Payerhin

Second Advisor

Dr. Edward DeClair

Third Advisor

Dr. Kate Gray


This essay examines the unwillingness of nation-states to use physical force in response to cyber warfare. Specifically, the paper claims that uncertainties regarding international law, state sovereignty, definitions of the use of force, and the problem of attribution in cyberspace contribute to a state’s decision to forego responding to cyber-attacks by using physical force attacks in other domains (i.e., land, air, sea, and space). These concepts are considered within the framework of Neorealist theory and in reference to the literature on cyber warfare. The 2007 series of cyber-attacks on Estonia are utilized as a case study to further examine the above elements. This paper builds upon the growing body of literature focused on cyber warfare and, in contrast to other research, argues that the international system’s inadequate handling of cyber- war concerns affects states’ responses to cyber-attacks by using physical force.