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February 05, 2013

US Gov't Decides on Cyber Warfare Strategy, Including Preemptive Measures

By Rory Lidstone, TMCnet Contributing Writer

It's a concerning sign of the times that the U.S. government needs a cyber warfare strategy, but with the frequency of cyber attacks not only in the United States but around the world — Twitter was recently hit by a "sophisticated cyber attack" that exposed the passwords of around 250,000 users, for example — it is definitely a necessity.

What's more, a "secret legal review" has concluded that the government can launch a cyber attack against a threatening nation in defense.

Indeed, an anonymous source within the government recently told The New York Times that these new cyber policies have laid the ground for military and U.S. intelligence agencies to deploy cyber weapons against other nations.

The decision to do so, of course, lies with President Obama, as such a move could be interpreted as an act of war.

Apparently though, allowing the President to authorize a preemptive cyber attack is just one of several decisions made in the recent months as the government explores the first ever rules for how the military can "defend or retaliate against a major cyber attack."

As such, the Obama administration is also reviewing the range of cyber weapons the country has in order to determine how to best protect the country's critical infrastructure and national interests from attack.

The administration's review is largely focused on determining what constitutes "reasonable and proportional force" to prevent or respond to a cyber attack. One specific scenario detailed, for example, is disabling an enemy's air defense system during a tactical drone strike.

Overall, these new policies allow the U.S. to respond to cyber attacks through the injection of destructive code against attackers, even if no declaration of war has been made.

These decisions are a stark reminder that cyber attacks are a legitimate threat in a time when data security is being compared to anti-aircraft defenses.

Edited by Braden Becker

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