Lucas Kello

Lucas Kello

University of Oxford, Director of the Centre for Technology and Global Affairs - CTGA

The impact of modern technology on the International Relations, government, and society; Technological Revolution in Historical Perspective; The Nature of Cyber Threats, Cyberweapons and Strategic Stability


Lucas Kello is Associate Professor of International Relations at Oxford University. He serves as Senior Lecturer/Director of the Centre for Technology and Global Affairs, a major research initiative exploring the impact of modern technology on international relations, government, and society. He is also co-Director of the interdisciplinary Centre for Doctoral Training in Cyber Security at the Department of Computer Science. His publications include “Striking Back: the end of peace in cyberspace and how to restore it (Yale University Press 2022); “The Virtual Weapon and International Order (Yale University Press 2017); “The Meaning of the Cyber Revolution: Perils to Theory and Statecraft” in International Security (The MIT Press), and “Security” in The Oxford Companion to International Relations (Oxford University Press); “Private Sector Cyber Weapons: An Adequate Response to the Sovereignty Gap?”, in Herbert Lin and Amy Zegart; “Bytes, Bombs, and Spies: The Strategic Dimensions of Offensive Cyber Operations” (Washington, D.C.: Brookings Institution Press, 2019); “Cyber Threats” in Thomas G. Weiss and Sam Daws, eds.; “The Oxford Handbook on the United Nations”, second edition (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2018); “European Cyber Defense”, in Hugo Meijer and Marco Wyss, eds.; “The Handbook of European Defence Policies and Armed Forces” (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2018).

Books & Articles (non-exhaustive list)

Striking Back: the end of peace in cyberspace and how to restore it by Lucas Kello, 2022

Faced with relentless technological aggression that imperils democracy, how can Western nations fight back? Before the cyber age, foreign interference in democratic politics played out in a comparatively narrow arena. The rapid expansion of cyberspace has radically altered this situation. The hacking activities of Russian military agents in the 2016 US presidential election and other major incidents demonstrate the sophisticated offensive strategies pursued by geopolitical adversaries.

The West is winning the technology race—yet losing the larger contest over cybersecurity. Lucas Kello reveals the failures of present policy to prevent cyberattacks and other forms of technological aggression. Drawing upon case studies and interviews with decision-makers, he develops a bold new approach: a concentrated and coordinated response strategy that targets adversaries’ interests and so recaptures the initiative. Striking Back provides an original solution to national security challenges in our era of intense technological rivalry.

The Virtual Weapon and international order by Lucas Kello, 2017

An urgently needed examination of the current cyber revolution that draws on case studies to develop conceptual frameworks for understanding its effects on international order. The cyber revolution is the revolution of our time. The rapid expansion of cyberspace in society brings both promise and peril. It promotes new modes of political cooperation, but it also disrupts interstate dealings and empowers subversive actors who may instigate diplomatic and military crises. Despite significant experience with cyber incidents, the conceptual apparatus to analyze, understand, and address their effects on international order remains primitive. Here, Lucas Kello adapts and applies international relations theory to create new ways of thinking about cyber strategy. Kello draws on a broad range of case studies – including the Stuxnet operation against Iran, the cyberattacks against Sony Pictures, and the disruption of the 2016 U.S. presidential election – to make sense of the contemporary technological revolution. Synthesizing data from government documents, forensic reports of major events, and interviews with senior decision-makers, this important work establishes new theoretical benchmarks to help security experts revise strategy and policy for the unprecedented challenges of our era.

The Virtual Weapon : Dilemmas and Futures Scenarios by Lucas Kello, Politique étrangère, IFRI, Vol 79, n°4, Winter 2014

The cyber revolution challenges conventional mechanisms of deterrence and conflict management. It is difficult to attribute responsibility for and even detect cyberoperations. The growing ability of nonstate actors to conduct offensive action further complicates the design of measures to repulse it. A large-scale cyberattack could instigate an intensifying spiral of escalation involving conventional strikes.

There is hardly a more pressing topic in contemporary security affairs than the cyber danger; yet none so perplexing. The virtual weapon is a recent addition to the arsenal of states.1 Security planners have yet to decipher its meaning for strategy. Only a limited record of events exists to orient this laborious learning process. The new capability, moreover, is scientifi- cally complex and highly volatile. Even computer specialists do not fully grasp its behavioural properties or the consequences of its use. One thing however is becoming clearer: the cyber phenomenon challenges inherited security mechanisms.2 Two core questions of strategic theory stand out in relation to this problem: How to deter a major cyberattack? How to control a cyber conflict following a failure to deter?

Correspondence : A Cyber Disagrement by Jon R. Lindsay & Lucas Kello, International Security, The MIT Press, Volume 39, Number 2, pp. 181-192, Fall 2014

Policymakers and pundits have been sounding alarms about internet insecurity for years, so the arst appearance of anything in International Security (IS) on this topic is a welcomed development. In the fall 2013 issue, Lucas Kello takes the security studies community to task for ignoring cyber perils, while Erik Gartzke argues that cyberwar is of limited political utility. Kello writes that “[t]he Clausewitzian philosophical frame- work misses the essence of the cyber danger and conceals its true signiacance: the vir- tual weapon is expanding the range of possible harms between the concepts of war and peace, with important consequences for national and international security”. Gartzke counters, “War is fundamentally a political process, as Carl von Clausewitz fa- mously explained. . . . The internet is generally an inferior substitute for terrestrial force in performing the functions of coercion or conquest”. If Kello is right, then the long silence in IS on cybersecurity suggests that scholars have neglected a major trans- formation in security affairs. If Gartzke is right, then scholars can be forgiven their bemusement with inoated cyber rhetoric.

The Meaning of the Cyber Revolution: Perils to Theory and Statecraft by Lucas Kello, International Security, The MIT Press, Volume 38, Number 2, pp. 7-40, Fall 2013

Security policy in the information age faces formidable challenges. Chief among these is to evaluate correctly the impact of cyberweapons on strategy: Does the new technology re- quire a revolution in how scholars and policymakers think about force and conoict?1 Practitioners confront a predicament in addressing this question: the cyber revolution gives rise to novel threats and opportunities requiring imme- diate policy responses; yet understanding its nature and its consequences for security is a slow learning process. Interpretation of cyber phenomena in- volves analysis of a new body of experience that existing theories may be unable to clarify. It presupposes, moreover, a technical understanding of a transforming technology, whose implications require time to master because of its scientific complexity. International Security publishes essays on all aspects of contemporary security issues. Its articles address traditional topics such as war and peace, as well as more recent dimensions of security, including the growing importance of environmental, demographic, and humanitarian issues, and the rise of global terrorist networks.