Last month, an acclaimed Marymount University professor and a recent alumnus partnered together to bring their extensive knowledge of cyberwarfare tactics into the global spotlight.
Dr. Donna Schaeffer, Professor of Information Technology in Marymount’s School of Technology and Innovation, and Dr. Steve Defibaugh, a 2021 graduate of the University’s Cybersecurity doctorate program, participated in the 17th International Conference on Cyber Warfare and Security (ICCWS) in Albany, N.Y. Dr. Defibaugh is currently a deputy chief information security officer for the federal government, and is also a research fellow at Marymount’s School of Technology and Innovation.
“This is an intimate conference with 40 cybersecurity professionals and academics from around the world in attendance at the State University of New York at Albany,” Dr. Schaeffer explained. “The interactions with such an international community were inspiring.”
During the two-day Conference, Marymount was selected to host the 20th annual ICCWS in March 2025, which will be held in the Ballston Center.
In this year’s proceedings, Dr. Defibaugh presented findings from his joint dissertation with Dr. Schaeffer about the attrition theory of warfare as applied to cybersecurity, and later said that reaction to his presentation was engaging and encouraging.
“We left the conference with a full research agenda!”
Their paper explores the idea of cyber-adversaries using classic attrition tactics to cause weakness in addressing follow-up attacks. Drs. Schaeffer and Defibaugh conducted a grounded theory study that reviewed historic literature to identify parallels between past attrition tactics and cyberwarfare, and said they saw the possibility of an adversary conducting an asymmetric campaign by flooding their opponent with false-positive attacks in order to have them drain resources.
For a modern perspective, the Marymount research team interviewed subject-matter experts from the U.S. military, with most of them agreeing that a ‘culture of compliance’ – in which a state launches a response with full resources to security events – can reduce the ability to maneuver appropriately, and even takes away their focus on critical mission functions that cybersecurity is meant to protect.
Other findings in Drs. Schaeffer and Defibaugh’s research include how some interviewees don’t believe their organizations are prepared for cyberwarfare, and don’t have the adequate resources in place to respond to cyberwarfare attacks.