Cyber Roundup (3/28): A glimpse at cyber ROEs, China behind RSA attack, Richard Clarke on Stuxnet and China, and a growing N. Korean cyber threat

A busy night in cyber news . . .


Carlo Munoz reported for The Hill on the upcoming release of cyber rules of engagement (ROE) for the U.S. military.  Mostly citing to testimony given by Gen. Keith Alexander (CyberComm/NSA), the article explained that the ROEs will "expand existing Pentagon protocols regarding cyberattacks beyond military networks."  The current ROEs only govern cyberattacks on internal DOD networks and control the response if hackers breach them.  DOD should finalize the ROEs in two months, according to The Hill article.

Ellen Nakashima also reported on the upcoming cyber ROEs for the Washington Post.  The WashPo also cited Gen. Alexander.  Specifically, the General believes that cyberattacks on foreign computer systems need presidential approval.  In this sense, individual military commanders would not be able to launch cyberattacks against foreign systems.  The General went on to compare acting defensively with a missle shoot-down, but acting offensively as something that would require "the president and the [defense] secretary to step in and start making decisions, versus us taking that on."


J. Nicholas Hoover also cited some of Gen. Alexander's comments for InformationWeekGovernment.  Specifically, the General said that China was behind the cyberattack on RSA.  In considering the attack, the General noted that China's "ability to do it against a company like RSA is such a high-order capability that . . .  other companies [are] vulnerable."  What's the response?  Gen. Alexander said that "[w]e need to make it more difficult for the Chinese to do what they're doing."  In essence, the government needs the ability to stop Chinese cyber-attacks in real-time.

Jared Serbu (of FederalNewsRadio) also quoted Gen. Alexander: "If we can't see the attack, we can't stop it . . . We're not talking about putting the military or the NSA into private networks to see the attack. We don't want to do that. But we have to have the ability to work with industry so that when they see an attack, they can share that with us immediately."


Jason Healy (of the Cyber Statecraft Initiative, Atlantic Council to the US-China Economic and Security Review Commission) gave testimony on the U.S. government's "Four Cyber Silences."  Generally exploring the U.S. government's reluctance to confront China on its blatant cyber-espionage, Healy concluded that the U.S. government must break the four cyber silences so that we can all understood the scope of the problem.

The silences?

  1. "Silence about how we got here."
  2. "Silence about the threat we face."
  3. "Silence about practical information which could help the private sector."
  4. "Silence to the Chinese about our increasing fury."


Ron Rosenbaum wrote a fantastic article for the Smithsonian on Richard Clarke, the author of Cyber War.  A few quick points, but the article is definitely worth a longer read:

  • Clarke believes that it is "pretty clear" that the U.S. was behind Stuxnet (with a bit of Israeli help on the side).  Why?  Clarke believes that "[Stuxnet] very much had the feel to it of having been written by or governed by a team of Washington lawyers."
  • Interestingly, Stuxnet only got loose because it didn't obey its TTL, or "Time to Live" (a Blade Runner reference!). 
  • Clarke believes that China has already penetrated every major company in the U.S.  Likely Great Britian, too. 
  • As for China, Clarke fears that the U.S. will die of a thousand cuts (due to Chinese cyber-espionage) as opposed to a cyber-Pearl Harbor.

Again, you can find the Smithsonian article here, there's a lot more to read.


According to Paul Eckert of Reuters, North Korea is becoming an increasing cyber threat because it has "added sophisticated cyber attack capabilities to its arsenal."

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One Response to “Cyber Roundup (3/28): A glimpse at cyber ROEs, China behind RSA attack, Richard Clarke on Stuxnet and China, and a growing N. Korean cyber threat”

  1. admin says:

    “DOD should finalize the ROEs in two months, according to The Hill article.” ? We know from Secretary Panetta’s recent speech that the rules of engagement have been updated. Are the rules in the public domain? Do we as citizens know what they are? Or, are they classified?

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Professor William Snyder

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Ryan D. White

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