Background Memo

This assignment gives you the opportunity to learn about a particular case of a cyber attack. After completing the assignment, you should be better able to contribute to class discussion on cyber attacks, and have a better sense of how cyber attacks occur and their implications for international security. This assignment is worth 10% of your course grade.


For the background memo, you will:


  1. Choose a case of cyber attack. Pick a cyber attack that probably involved a state actor, or involved a non-state actor for some purpose other than financial gain.


  1. Describe the case. Your memo should identify the state or group that initiated the attack, the purpose of the attack, the target, and the attack vector—how the attackers gained access to the computer systems they attacked. If the target of the attack responded in some way (i.e. with a counter-attack,  a  strongly  worded  statement, etc.), please describe the response as well. Some of these facts may not be clear—it is fine to report in your memo the best guess or informed  speculation  of  Consult enough sources to give you confidence in the facts of the case.


  1. Provide your assessment of the implications of your case for international security. You might address questions like the following: Is this kind of attack likely to occur in the future? Has the vulnerability been closed? Was the impact of the attack significant enough to change international security policy? What could be done to mitigate the risk of such attacks in the future?


Spend some time thinking about how best to organize your paper. Write clearly and concisely. Proofread. You cannot do well on this assignment if I am confused about your case or your analysis.


Your background memo should be addressed to me. Refer to your notes/slides from our class discussion of policy memos for more information on structure and style. For additional thoughts and tips on policy memo writing, I have posted two guideline documents on Blackboard.


Your background memo should be no more than 2 pages of double-spaced text (not including the bibliography), using a standard 12-point font and 1-inch margins.

Seriously. That’s shorter than this handout.

Please number your pages. You can use whatever citation style you prefer, but you must cite your sources correctly. Ask for help if you’re not sure how or whether to cite material. For guidance on appropriate sourcing, see the following resources:


Submit the memo via Blackboard (as a PDF file, if possible) before the deadline. Late submission will be penalized.

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