DoD: Cyber attack is act of war

DoD: Cyber attack is act of war

The United States could respond to a cyber-attack with real-life military retaliation, DoD will say in its pending cyber-strategy, the Wall Street Journal’s Siobhan Gorman and Julian Barnes report. Military officials hope that making such a proclamation will deter potential bad guys from attempting a “Die Hard 4″ scenario, shutting down power grids, traffic lights, cell phone networks or other essential infrastructure.

Wrote Gorman and Barnes:

“If you shut down our power grid, maybe we will put a missile down one of your smokestacks,” said a military official.

Recent attacks on the Pentagon’s own systems—as well as the sabotaging of Iran’s nuclear program via the Stuxnet computer worm—have given new urgency to U.S. efforts to develop a more formalized approach to cyber attacks. A key moment occurred in 2008, when at least one U.S. military computer system was penetrated. This weekend Lockheed Martin, a major military contractor, acknowledged that it had been the victim of an infiltration, while playing down its impact.

The report will also spark a debate over a range of sensitive issues the Pentagon left unaddressed, including whether the U.S. can ever be certain about an attack’s origin, and how to define when computer sabotage is serious enough to constitute an act of war. These questions have already been a topic of dispute within the military.

One idea gaining momentum at the Pentagon is the notion of “equivalence.” If a cyber attack produces the death, damage, destruction or high-level disruption that a traditional military attack would cause, then it would be a candidate for a “use of force” consideration, which could merit retaliation.

It’s a fascinating concept, and could be the rare situation in which a Pentagon strategy document includes something new, rather than just buzzwords, happy talk and pretty pictures. The “equivalence” doctrine especially would make for very interesting reading: You can imagine a two-column chart with causes and effects; on one side it would say “East Coast blackout,” and next to it would say, “10–15 JDAMs.”

But realistically, it’s hard to imagine the cyber-strategy will have any deterrent effect on potential cyber attackers. It’s very difficult to prove conclusively where such attacks actually come from, and even if you did, could the military respond quickly enough with an air strike or a special operations raid to get the bad guys? Not only that, let’s be honest here: Our own government says that Chinese hackers already are constantly probing defense and other networks in the U.S., and presumably have spent years vacuuming up who knows what. Is the U.S. willing to start a hot war over that?

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How is a kinetic event resulting in death PROPORTIONAL to a non-kinetic event that result in 0 deaths? ATC radars, hospitals, traffic signals, reactor cores all have back-up systems. Are we going to kill people over being inconvenienced to go without power? How many deaths are proportional to taking down Wall Street, credit records, and bank accounts? How many American lives are worth risking in delivering a kinetic retaliation? Could this start us down the road to a cyber-attack on a NATO ally resulting in enacting Article 5 in response?

10 years ago my grandson was gaming on his computer and all of a sudden his firewall application zone alarm pops up and shows many intrusion attempts on his computer from outside source. I use a special software to track the source ip given to zone alarm back to Beijing University in China. Even your home computer is being scan by China.

I dont think this article means to imply that we will be seeking retribution by killing people; rather that if an attack is made on our infrastructure then we will respond in kind. I think there is merit in this approach but it does, as you point out, bring up an interesting moral question. Should cyber attacks be tolerated if there is no cost in human life? I don’t think anyone would answer that question in the affermative. I do agree however that taking human life in retaliation is a questionable course of action.

Two questions:

1. Would an attack such as that mounted on Lockheed Martin over the weekend be considered in this equation? Obviously China was trying to steal information. IMO that’s more damaging in the grand scheme of things than types of cyber attacks that could result in direct casualties.

2. How do you locate the source the attack was launched from and the responsible parties reliably?

Cyber attacks are not per se a non-lethal action. They could have lethal consequences. Besides that, when sensitive military information is stolen, it directly threatens the lives of those who it concerns. It is too simple to state that cyberattacks are purely digital and non-harmful to human beings.

I LOVE Anonymous!!! They are the ones that will save us from global domination!


May you should read the book One Second After. What all would be affected if the power grid went? How many people would die in those hospital, how many accidents when those traffic lights quit working?

Which country has the best hackers?

The way I see it, the Chicoms or Rooskies stealing information from our classified data systems is a violation of our sovereignty and should be treated accordingly. We should sanction the hell out of them, and if that doesn’t work, well than the JDAMS and tomahawks follow… We need a leader that will be tough with the Chinese..

You do realize that starting a shooting war with another nation that owns nuclear bombs is a bad idea right?

Cyberwar is a fraud. The whole paradigm is simply a marketing push by the same guys who brought you the dot com collapse and the mirage of defeating the fog of war with network centric warfare. The MO is to look for pots of gold defended by clueless DoD officials. Cyberwar is just the last in a long line of failed by profitable consulting “opportunities”.

The simple fact is that Cyberwar is about as sound a concept as a war on littering. Just take a look for every question on cyberwar there is an equivalent question in a war on littering and just as sound an answer.

Of couse , US, you taught the world what’s window, what’s unix, what’s database,what’s TCP/IP.

To the poster “sferrin”

You wrote: “Would an attack such as that mounted on Lockheed Martin over the weekend be considered in this equation? Obviously China was trying to steal information. IMO that’s more damaging in the grand scheme of things than types of cyber attacks that could result in direct casualties.”

You equal cyber-espionage with “cyber-terrorism that results in direct casualties”.

Given the global, World-wide U.S. American “Echelon” cyber-espionage network, can we all start shooting now?

Put three seconds of thought into it would you? Espionage of that sort has the potential to lead to much higher casualties down the road.

Works both ways.

The idea that the computerized systems are especially vulnerable is based on ignorance. The systems are actually more resilient then the manual systems they replaced, they have to be because they break down all the time and if they were less resilient they wouldn’t be worth the investment.

What the hell are you talking about?

“I have a journal to keep secrets from my computer” –Dwight Schrute

Ever since he said that I’ve come to know the irreplaceable value of paper… something that cannot be destroyed by a power outtage

The number of adults who are still scared of the dark is amazing.

Irreplaceable value of paper??? That is about the easiest thing to steal or copy. How about this little idea, get a friggin external hard drive, after you saved your precious secrets — unplug the dam thing. While you work with the external, unplug your computer from the network, problem solved. When I was on active duty, the S-2 had stand-alone computers so this would not be a problem, can’t hack something you can’t touch but of course this was inconvenient, we must have everything connected now. Here is my thoughts on cyberwar, put a few JDAMs on the countries main powersources and take out their grids, problem solved. Start executing cyber terrorists and lock hackers up and throw away the dam keys. You would feel the same after you have been hacked, nice to know who did it, but when you find them then something should be done. Your credit card gets compromised, the FBI won’t do a dam thing, the local sherrif you’re supposed to report it to has no friggin idea of what to do or how to do it. Time to put some laws on the books with teeth, if this involves other countries also, so be it!!! Nuff Said


They already did it but don’t start another war again. We have many of it already.

Everyone loses

@OBEAST: There is a certain “irreplaceable value of paper”. It is always good practice to have a hard copy of your most valuable documents. A good safe is a great place to store those documents for safe keeping as most people who break into your house will most likely be in a hurry and focus on things that are out in the open. Most citizens also do not have to worry about international government spies breaking into their house. Most criminals, who physically break into your house, would rather steal your flat screen than your business receipts.

Hard drives fail, external or not. It is a fact of life. Sure you could store you sensitive items on the “cloud”, but if you have read the news lately you would know that this method is not exactly the most secure option to date. There is no 100% way to secure your personal information, if someone wants it bad enough they CAN get it. Also, remember that most hacks do not come from a direct attack from an individual person. Programs are downloaded, usually unknowingly by the user, and data is collected and then sent out. This can happen if not connected to the “network”, as soon as you plug back in the data will be sent. So don’t give yourself a false sense of security by unplugging the cable.

He’s not saying anything wrong by stating there is an irreplaceable value of paper. It’s like the new Amazon Kindle vs. a hardbound book. While a Kindle is neat and has a lot of stories, a book never runs out of power, and you don’t get a headache from staring into a machine all day. Each have their own perks.


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