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Thursday, June 2, 2011

Cyber Attacks Deemed an Act of War

The Pentagon for the first time has declared that cyber attacks originating in other countries are an act of war, which clears the path for a military response, according to The Wall Street Journal.
In part, the Pentagon intends its plan as a warning to potential adversaries of the consequences of attacking the U.S. in this way. "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 categorization will come as a part of the Pentagon's first formal cyber strategy. The Journal reports that the unclassified segments of this document will become available next month.
There are some questions that the article brings up, such as the difficulties of determining the origin of a cyber attack, and how it will be determined that an attack is extensive enough to warrant action.
According to the Journal, "The move to formalize the Pentagon's thinking was borne of the military's realization the U.S. has been slow to build up defenses against these kinds of attacks, even as civilian and military infrastructure has grown more dependent on the Internet."
The United States is not merely a victim of computer attacks; there is also speculation the the U.S. assisted in developing Stuxnet, which attacked some of Iran's nuclear facilities.

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