Honors Program


Document Type


Date of this Version

Spring 3-2023


Nguyen, Phuc. 2023. “All Bark and No Byte: A Case Study on Nuclear Weapons’ Role in Cyber Deterrence.” Undergraduate Honors Thesis. University of Nebraska-Lincoln.


Copyright Phuc D. Nguyen 2023


In what some scholars consider a marked departure from its traditional policy, the U.S.' 2018 Nuclear Deterrence Posture Review declared that the U.S. would consider the use of nuclear weapons in response to "significant, non-nuclear strategic attacks." However, despite real-world examples of the type of significant cyberattacks on U.S., allied, or partner civilian population or infrastructure alluded to in the Review, the factors that might trigger multidomain escalation remain underexplored, which creates a credibility gap in the U.S.' deterrence policy. This paper explores these factors by providing a case study of the North Korean WannaCry and Russian NotPetya cyberattacks and compares the potential flashpoints caused by each attack with declared U.S. nuclear policy. In so doing, it examines how the presence of a traditional nuclear deterrent affects a state's ability to deter cyberattacks.