The Belfer Center at the Harvard Kennedy School for Science and International Affairs, have released an index, that aims to rank and analyse nation state capabilities as they pertain to offensive and defensive cyber security skills, as they pertain to both internal and external settings.

They have called it the National Cyber Power Index (NCPI) and at 84 pages, provides an in depth look at how to measure nation state capabilities and indeed provide a league table.

Which is the most powerful cyber nation in the world?

Everyone wants to know, who is top of the leader board? The US, UK and China seem to fill the top 3 slots, based on analysis of 27 unique indicators and 1000 different data sources.

The data was crunched against a specific algorithm that took into account not just the capabilities of a nation state, but also their intent. The NCPI is essentially broken down into two areas: Cyber Capability Index (CCI) and the Cyber Intent Index (CII). Whilst the NCPI is released for 2020, other attempts at nation state analysis have been done in the past – such as the Global Cyber Index from the ITU

The Top 10 NCPI for 2020:

  1. United States
  2. China
  3. United Kingdom
  4. Russia
  5. Netherlands
  6. France
  7. Germany
  8. Canada
  9. Japan
  10. Australia

Clearly one of the major draw backs of such an analytical process, would be the lack of credible publicly available data sources.

Mapping cyber power objectives

The NCPI looked at national level strategies that would contribute to the need to develop complex cyber capabilities, for both internal and external facing scenarios. The seven main objectives included:

  1. Surveying and Monitoring Domestic Groups
  2. Enhancing National Cyber Defences
  3. Controlling and Manipulating the Information Environment
  4. Intelligence Gathering
  5. Growing National Cyber Competence
  6. Destroying / Disabling Adversary Infrastructure Capabilities
  7. Defining International Standards

Clearly each of those objectives are incredibly broad and each nation state will have a differing set of priorities that would contribute to how cyber would help facilitate those outcomes.

The NCPI is certainly an interesting and powerful concept in the ever evolving picture of nation state cyber arsenal development.

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