Attribution of state-sponsored cyberattacks can be difficult, but the significant uptick in attributions in recent years shows that attribution is far from impossible. After several years of only sporadic attributions, Western governments in 2017 began attributing cyberattacks to other governments more frequently and in a more coordinated fashion. But nongovernment actors have more consistently attributed harmful cyber activity to state actors. Although not without risks, these nongovernmental attributions play an important role in the cybersecurity ecosystem. They are often faster and more detailed than governmental attributions, and they fill gaps where governments choose not to attribute. Companies and think tanks have recently proposed centralizing attribution of state-sponsored cyberattacks in a new international entity. Such an institution would require significant start-up time and resources to establish efficacy and credibility. In the meantime, the current system of public-private attributions, decentralized and messy though it is, has some underappreciated virtues—ones that counsel in favor of preserving some multiplicity of attributors even alongside any future attribution entity.
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