Using Military Might on Cyber Combatants

The Pentagon has concluded that computer sabotage from another country can constitute an act of war, opening the door for the U.S. to respond using traditional military force.

What's the Latest Development?


The Wall Street Journal interprets the Pentagon conclusion that computer sabotage coming from another country can constitute an act of war as "a finding that for the first time opens the door for the U.S. to respond using traditional military force." It says that unclassified portions of the Pentagon's first formal cyber strategy are expected to become public next month. The document is "an early attempt to grapple with a changing world in which a hacker could pose as significant a threat to U.S. nuclear reactors, subways or pipelines as a hostile country's military."

What's the Big Idea?

The Pentagon partly intends its plan as a warning to potential adversaries of the consequences of cyber attacks on it. "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. This weekend Lockheed Martin, a major military contractor, acknowledged that it had been the victim of an infiltration, while playing down its impact.

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