Saving face in the cyberspace: Responses to public cyber intrusions in the Gulf

Yehonatan Abramson*, Gil Baram

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

How do states “save face” following a cyber intrusion directed at them? Recent scholarship demonstrates that the covert nature of cyber intrusions allows states to respond with restraint, avoiding escalation. But what happens when cyber intrusions become public and are highly visible? This article examines the rhetorical strategies employed by authoritarian Gulf states to mitigate the image-related costs associated with a public cyber intrusion. Drawing on the conceptual language of image-repair and crisis communication theories and employing discourse analysis of original data in Arabic, we identify three types of face-saving strategies: diminishing, self-complimenting, and accusing. Our findings indicate that intrusions involving leaking or faking information bring about unique “face-saving” strategies that do not only deal with the intrusion itself but also with the subsequent information crisis. Overall, the article identifies how states employ diverse rhetorical strategies—beyond attribution—to narrate cyber intrusions and keep cyber conflict contained.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)210-238
Number of pages29
JournalContemporary Security Policy
Volume45
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - 2024

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023 The Author(s). Published by Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group.

Keywords

  • Cybersecurity
  • Middle East
  • constructivism
  • discourse analysis
  • image

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