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Cyber Attacks Can Be Viewed As An Act of War

by John Reed on May 31, 2011

By Kevin Coleman — Defense Tech Cyber Warfare Correspondent

Over the weekend information leaked out about a DoD strategy document due to be released in June. The information leaked from this document makes the Pentagon’s position clear – Cyber Attacks May Be Considered an Act of War! The information shocked outsiders as is clearly evident by the amount of media attention, but was not new to those that have been involved in the cyber warfare domain. The Pentagon’s new strategy document is a warning to those who would be our cyber adversaries of the consequences if/when they launch cyber attacks against the U.S.

It is about time. We have played defense for far too long and cyber attacks have continued to increase. There has to be a cost associated with launching cyber attacks against our systems and networks. Remember the old saying; the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results!

A cruise missile taking out a data center spewing malicious traffic is now on the table as a real option. I must say the timing is interesting. Using kinetic (bombs & bullets) in response to cyber attacks (bits & bytes) has been talked about but this is in a different context.

I must say the leak occurring after Lockheed experienced what has been called “a significant and tenacious attack” makes me wonder.

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{ 13 comments… read them below or add one }

brok3n May 31, 2011 at 12:59 pm

While the threat is nice, China's response will be simply that of denial and propaganda. But at least something is being done to address this growing threat to our intellectual property and security.

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Achilles May 31, 2011 at 2:12 pm

How will the DOD deal with groups that are government backed like the ones in China?

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Jeff m May 31, 2011 at 2:47 pm

the us has probably infiltrated chinese computer networks already. If the us is not EVERYWHERE already then I will be surprised to hear why not, because taking over the worlds computers was ours for the taking back in the 90s. DARPA invented th internet, no doubt to me that it has lready been “weaponized”

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Jacob May 31, 2011 at 5:06 pm

Considering that we've presumably attacked Iran preemptively with Stuxnet, is it really a good idea to define cyber attacks as acts of war?

And what does a cyber-war look like? Is it just hackers firing back and forth, or does it escalate into real-life shooting?

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split May 31, 2011 at 11:17 pm

cyber-war is really without nationality; which makes identifying attackers and targets politically difficult. Hackers physically based in, for example, the Ukraine, can control systems anywhere in the world to attack US or our allies' assets. Who do you target? It's way stickier than guerrilla warfare, especially when the option of physical force is on the table

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bigRick May 31, 2011 at 6:45 pm

I agree with the DOD's stance here. When a person or a country hacks into another's computer network it basically a an act of espionage. If one country gets "caught" then the victim has a right to defend itself.

I'd just wish they'd take it this far for "personal" protection. If a hacker cracks a person's accounts, computer, email, then to me its the same as committing an act of kidnapping.

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Stephen Russell May 31, 2011 at 9:05 pm

If Cyberattack is act of war, then Beef up our defenses BIG Time.
Hire more IT types.
Watch China, India, Pakistan for Cyberstrikes.
Possible strikes.

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split May 31, 2011 at 11:13 pm

You have to have a lot of reliable, verifiable intel to strike targets in countries that may be political allies of the US, yet unwittingly have third-party cyber aggressors. What happens if hosts in Switzerland are taken over and used for an attack against economic targets in the US? Are we going to send unofficial predator drones to whomp a Swiss data centre? Or are we going to resort to the same political pressure that "worked" in Pakistan, Syria, Laos, etc? The only safe political recourse is to beef up intel.

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Oblat June 1, 2011 at 3:02 am

Please don't ask any questions. Kevin is just posting to drive up his marketing profile as a cyberwar consultant. There isn't any engineering behind the sales department here.

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Kevin June 1, 2011 at 8:25 am

A good read with supporting information for top level government officials.
http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/05/31/us-usa-

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Tenn Slim June 1, 2011 at 9:19 am

On the surface, this seems a bit of a response hysteria.

The Tactical decisions are enormous. Missles, HUMINT, Cbyer tracks, etc pre suppose the Technical capabilites. Add to that, the risk factor of a miss…

Each and every Cyber response decision would have to end up on the Oval Office desk. Given our current admin, the delay would be a tactical failulre on the face of the request.

Sounds like a DOD bit of Tech Hysteria.

end

Semper FI

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Phil June 2, 2011 at 11:41 pm

Hypocrites. Cruise missile strikes and ISR missions in Libya are not acts of war, but hacking the phone company is. Really?

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