Cyberattacks May Constitute Acts of War

THE PENTAGON IS set to establish as official U.S. policy that it will consider cyberattacks to be “acts of war,” and will respond to them with real-world force, the Wall Street Journal reports.
The strategy, which should be public by the time you read this, will provide guidance to our country’s armed forces and put potential enemies on notice. Cyberterrorism is certainly a big issue for officials, as increasing portions of our country’s infrastructure are online.

The announcement comes just a few days after Lockheed Martin, a major U.S. defense contractor, was the subject of a “significant and tenacious [cyber]attack.” The company has stressed that no sensitive information was exposed during the attack.

According to the Journal, military officials disagree about how the nation should handle cyberattacks—specifically, when a military response is warranted and when one is not. The Journal says that officials seem to favor responding aggressively to cyberattacks that cause physical damage, injury, or death.

Few virtual attacks are capable of causing this kind of harm, however, so few cyberattacks would justify brute-force retaliation under such a standard. That’s not to say military-employed hackers won’t assert the right to respond to an attack by taking down an enemy’s computer system, though.

Regardless of official strategy, experts and officials have been debating how best to respond to cyberterrorism for years. Terrorism experts often warn that the next terrorist attacks could be virtual—though, so far, all actual cyberattacks have been minor in scope.


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