Pentagon: The Global Cyberwar is Just Beginning

In an October 5, 2010 article by staff writer Anna Mulrine, The Christian Science Monitor reports that as the Pentagon is "rapidly preparing for cyberwar in the face of alarming and growing threats . . . [it is] struggling with some basics of warfare – including how to define exactly what, for starters, constitutes an attack, and what level of cyberattack warrants a cyber-reprisal."  

The Monitor goes on to note that as the level of sophistication of recent attacks has risen, defense officials have begun taking steps of "investigating the feasibility of expanding NATO's collective defense tenet to include cyberspace."

The article quotes Deputy Secretary of Defense William J. Lynn, who illustrated the disparity between attacks and how a U.S. response could differ based on the severity of the attack. 

"'I mean, clearly if you take down significant portions of our economy we would probably consider that an attack.  But an intrusion stealing data, on the other hand, probably isn't an attack.  And there are [an] enormous number of steps in between those two.'"

Another difficulty facing defense officials is "attribution."  As Deputy Secretary Lynn said, "If you don't know who to attribute an attack to, you can't retaliate against that attack."  As a result, Lynn continues, "[y]ou can't deter through punishment, you can't deter by retaliating against the attack.  

According to The Monitor, in response to the difficult questions posed by cyberwarfare, the Pentagon is turning to some unorthodox sources "strategic models of cyberdefense, including public health.  'A public health model has some interesting applications.  Could we use [the] techniques [designed] to prevent diseases [and apply them] to the Internet?'"

Precisely because of these definition and attribution problems, the Defense Department is "'trying to get [its] arms around the strategy [now] rather than respond to the event.'"



The full text of the article can be found at the link above, or here

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