The Cyber Offense-Defense Balance and Why Technology is Both Cool and Terrifying

On March 8 I attended an event for OU’s annual IAS Symposium. This year’s topic was global cyber trends and I went to a lecture entitled “What is the Cyber Offense-Defense Balance?” that was given by Rebecca Slayton, a professor at Cornell.

I don’t know very much about global cyber trends and had no idea what the cyber offense-defense balance even was when I sat down for the lecture, so I learned a lot in the hour and fifteen minutes I was there. Dr. Slayton began by outlining the conventional wisdom, which is that offense has the upper hand in cyberspace. Basically, first-mover advantages and the cost of attacking vs. defending favors the offensive in cyber operations. She then addressed the minority view, the cyber defense advantage, and proceeded to assert that in reality neither of these are true but that we are simply asking the wrong question. What we should be asking is “under what circumstances do cyber operations favor offense rather than defense?” The cyber offense-defense balance, according to Slayton, is shaped not only by technology but also by the complexity of adversaries’ goals relative to their skills and organizational capacity. In other words, a potential offensive advantage must be defined in relation to specific adversaries with specific goals, in conjunction with skills and organizational context.

In cyber operations, both the offense and the defense want to maximize payoff versus cost. This payoff is shaped by the goals of each adversary and subjective value of their operation. For example, cyber offense is valuable for countries or actors who value covert operations or action at a distance, who don’t have other means of attack, and who have adversaries who rely heavily on cyberspace. Cyber defense is valuable for actors who depend on cyberspace. The cost of cyber operations is more difficult to measure because cyber weapons have very different costs than physical ones. Each code design can only be reused until it is discovered, and costs are dominated by research, development, and testing rather than materials and production as physical weapons are. Maintenance costs are also huge in the software lifecycle.

The lecture also covered the consequences of cyber operations. The example that Dr. Slayton used was Stuxnet, a US-Israeli attack on an Iranian uranium enrichment facility. Over the at least 4 year development period ending with discovery in 2010, hackers took control of the facility’s computers and periodically sped up the centrifuges to damaging speeds without the scientists’ awareness. The costs due to loss of production and centrifuges was estimated to be near 7 million, and the non-monetary payoffs for the offense came in the form of damaged morale, excessive security, and resulting organizational inefficiencies. The perceived value of Stuxnet appears to be 2 orders of magnitude greater than its costs for the US and Israel. Although this may be true, the cost of offense exceeded that of defense and the blowback was that it strengthened the resolve of Iran nuclear power and that Iran was able to use the attack to learn about cyber weapons. Slayton’s final takeaway was that there is no offense-defense balance because cyberspace is not uniform (kind of a cop-out given the title of her lecture, I know).

Overall I thought the lecture was very interesting. As the importance of technology worldwide continues to increase, there are many adaptations we need to make and precautions we need to take, and as the definition of war changes with new developments it is likely that this topic will only become more prevalent in our society.



The Evolution of Hip-Hop

The Evolution of Hip-Hop

This essay was written for the Expository Writing program class “Poets 2 Rockstars.” It was published in Brainstorm vol. VIII (2016). Brainstorm is the University of Oklahoma Expository Writing Program’s journal of student writing.  All Expo students are invited to submit an essay from their Expository Writing class for possible inclusion in Brainstorm.  At the end of each term, a selection committee will choose 3-5 of these submissions and invite the authors to revise their essays for publication.

Hip-hop, as a cultural force, has grown to mirror the culture it lives in and represents a narrative that had never been represented before in America. Rap, one of the five elements of hip-hop culture defined by Afrika Bambaataa (Aubry) that involves rhyming over a beat, has been highly controversial. One subgenre of rap known as “gangsta” rap still comes under fire today for its hyper-masculine lyrics involving violence, drugs, alcohol, money, and misogyny. The epitome of the “gangsta” rapper was Tupac Shakur (1971–1996), whose poignant and authentic portrayal of life on the streets in the Bronx and Brooklyn earned him unprecedented fame and whose scandalous personal life led to quite a bit of controversy. Tupac’s take on “gangsta” rap defined the hip-hop music industry and popularized the genre with American audiences. Tupac’s music expressed “realness,” an idea prevalent within hip-hop that artists must stay authentic and “true to oneself” (Williams 4). Tupac’s music was also special in the way that audiences could identify with it, especially those who grew up in similarly low-status conditions. This group of listeners, though, was very focused in comparison with the wider audience of hip-hop listeners from all races and backgrounds. Tupac had listeners who enjoyed and sympathized with his music and lyrics, yet they never lived in situations from which they could directly relate to his lived experience. Recently, hip-hop’s sound has been evolving and changing to reflect a different attitude in America. The idea of authenticity plays a large role for hip-hop fans, and, as times have begun to change, the idea of “realness” has been challenged. What constitutes authentic hip-hop, and what does this portrayal mean in terms of hip-hop’s cultural force? The answer lies within the audience—as listeners recognize authenticity, we define the impact that hip-hop artists make and the influence they have on the genre.

Russian Table

Russian Table has been revamped. Don’t worry, there is still the classic чай (tea) from the самовар (samovar) and VERY Russian пироги (pies, a.k.a. pizza from the Domino’s down the street). There is still a diverse mix of students from differing Russian levels, enhancing everybody’s experience outside of class. Now, Russian Table includes not only a discussion of the language we all love, but a huge cultural aspect centered around all Slavic nationalities that keeps attendees coming back for more. Thanks to Rachick, last Wednesday, we learned many fun facts about Russian politics, the fall of the Soviet Union, and Serbian and Georgian identities! Here are a few to share:

-At the fall of the Soviet Union, Georgia made the national language Georgian for a time, banning all others, including Russian. While many citizens could communicate in Georgian, this was restrictive for many, as Russian may have been their first language, or simply because it took away their rights to speak in languages they loved. This restriction did not last.

-There are many tribes that live in Serbia, in the Far East of the Russian country. While, now, many most likely speak at least a little bit of Russian, they all have their own unique languages without any Slavic origins. It is theorized that these peoples migrated from North America, originally mixing with the Native American tribes, across the ice bridge connecting Russia to Alaska before settling in Siberia.

-Putin used to be the right-hand man of Yeltsin, former Russian President, from 1996-1999. Yeltsin, however, was an alcoholic and resigned in 1999, at which point Putin took over. Now, Putin and Medvedev have been alternating between President and Prime Minister for almost 20 years.

I would highly recommend anyone to come visit us at Русский столь, Wednesdays at 5 pm in Kaufman 221B, and share some пироги!



I’ve got cages falling around me like the ice I used to love from the skies back home. You make one plan and that falls through and you just think, well that’s okay, I’m good at improvising, this is just an excuse to do something new, and then all of a sudden you’ve got inches of ice on your branches and you can’t move or else you’ll snap with sounds like gunshots. They’re everywhere. I don’t know if anyone out there is reading this, but the cages and the ice, they’re everywhere.

Everywhere I look I just see miles and miles of myself sitting in an office in a city with smog and four lane interstates and not a single genuine smile as far as the eye can see. I see myself five years down the road still saying “I’ll go see the world when I’m older, when I have more money saved up, when I pay off my student loans, when I when I when I when I when I” and it all sounds like bull shit. It’s all bull shit. You start growing up and they start asking you what you want to be and you say you don’t know so they tell you that you’re smart and talented and that you can do anything in the world you set your mind to. So you do, you set your mind to something. And you continue to grow up and the thing you set your mind to doesn’t work out and you’ve got one option, only one, and you know that it won’t even make you happy but you do it anyway because that’s all you’ve got and then suddenly you’re 60 and suffering from high blood pressure because you never stopped being anxious since you turned 21. And the whole while you keep thinking “but I’m smart and I’m talented and they said the whole world was in front of me” but you’re still stuck in the same fucking place you’ve been for years.

If I don’t share this on FB I know that no one will read this, and they will continue to believe that I will make something great out of my life. But I am just one in seven billion. And I am all dried up. I’ve stopped falling asleep at night, I don’t think I’ve slept since December. When I close my eyes all I see are my mom’s broken heart, the dead guy from the Canyon, Norway without me, and my own loneliness. And none of those are things that I can fix.

The world lied to all of us. It made itself seem bigger and brighter and more accessible, assuming that growing up and coming of age would dull our imaginations enough to keep ourselves trapped in safe, career driven lives. I don’t want a career, I want a mission and a dream and a lifestyle that promotes holistic well-being, not just wasting time until I die. Nobody here seems to realize that we are all just going to die someday and none of this matters. The more I face failure and mediocrity the more I begin to think that God or Yahweh or Allah or Creator or whoever the fuck had the brilliant idea to put seven billion people on one planet just to suffer from boredom doesn’t actually care about me. I’ve lost my life force, my Creator, my sculptor. He’s gone and I’m collecting dust here on the shelf.

If you’re reading this, I’m stuck. Like, the cement is starting to set, stuck. Like, nail polish on the carpet, stuck. Like, the sword in the stone, stuck. Stuck. And I can’t accept average, but I have no options for vibrant greatness. I can’t even flow when I write anymore, it’s turned to choppy sentences with no resonance, no depth. Just words, empty empty words. Anyone who ever expected greatness from me was wrong. I’m sorry I can’t live up to the expectation, believe me, I bear the weight of my own mediocrity more than you will ever know.

This isn’t a cry for help, it’s just a confirmation of what I know deep within my heart. I know I am better than this, I’m sorry I’m sorry I’m sorry, I’m better than this, I’m trying, but I just can’t keep up the facade. I’m sorry.

Until next time,

H. Asfeldt

It Might Be Too Good To Be True

Social Media Sites Can Facilitate the Spread of False Information– Image courtesy of NPR

We live in a time when the President of the United States can instantly deliver a message to almost 50 million viewers using Twitter, news agencies race each other to see who can break news faster, regardless of the validity, and false claims can go viral and wreak havoc in a matter of minutes. This haphazardness of news and information has led to an era in which it is some how not that strange for public leaders to be arguing about the subjectivity of facts.

This is why it was a relief to read about a team of astronomers from Arizona State University and MIT which spent two years double-checking data which would indicate a huge scientific discovery. It was shocking to me that the team’s immediate reaction was not excitement, but skepticism.

Skepticism, in my opinion, ought to be anyone’s first reaction to news, especially news which is surprising or currently breaking. Because of platforms like social media, where information is reproduced and spread at lightning-fast rates, a dangerous climate has formed of click-bait articles and misleading titles. It has even recently been discovered that on Twitter, false news spreads faster than true news.

Because of this, it is paramount to the success of the modern public relations professional to fact-check and research before relaying information to the public. Ironically, in this day and age, the back lash for being exposed for spreading false information tends to be extremely harsh.

As the team of researchers proved with its extensive fact-checking, true news can still be exciting. When thinking ahead to how I might ensure my client is informative as well as entertaining, there are a few strategies that come to mind. One of them is to lower the frequency of news, as conserving news releases may preserve the luster and excitement of the news itself. Furthermore, there are tactics that I can adopt such as using info graphics and social media tools to remain compelling.

While public relations professionals need to respond quickly, the truth is more important than a race for ‘shares’ and ‘likes’.

Chapter 4 Review Questions

Question #5: Since I was little, I have been obsessed with my music. And I know that I can 100% attribute that to my dad. He was obsessed and exposed me to such bands as Aerosmith and ACDC and many other bands like those. But, thanks to my mom, I also gained a love for Country music and basically every genre of music.

However, since I got older and was exposed to the Internet and such things as Spotify, iTunes and Apple Music, I have truly learned so much more about music and gained a new love for it. Originally, all I had were CDs that my mom had bought at the store or CDs that my dad had made that were compiled of all different songs.

Since the internet, my love for music has only grown as I have heard more and more songs that are all different kinds of genres. There are songs for all different kinds of moods that you are in, and I can tell you the truth, I listen to music 24/7– whether that is laying in bed, taking a shower, doing my homework, even just sitting there, I can guarantee I will be listening to music.

I have always exposed myself to all kinds of music and listen to music from all over the world! I can definitely attribute my love for music and my love for a wide range of music to the Internet and how it has enabled me to search for more music than just what is surrounding me.