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Pentagon Says Cyberattacks Can Count As Act of War 282

suraj.sun tips news that the Pentagon has decided computer sabotage originating from another country can be classified as an act of war. "The Pentagon's first formal cyber strategy, unclassified portions of which are expected to become public next month, represents an early attempt to grapple with a changing world in which a hacker could pose as significant a threat to US nuclear reactors, subways or pipelines as a hostile country's military." This news comes only days after the Chinese military admitted the existence of a team of cyberwarriors. "The report will also spark a debate over a range of sensitive issues the Pentagon left unaddressed, including whether the US can ever be certain about an attack's origin, and how to define when computer sabotage is serious enough to constitute an act of war. These questions have already been a topic of dispute within the military."
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Pentagon Says Cyberattacks Can Count As Act of War

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  • so what? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday May 31, 2011 @10:56AM (#36296946)

    anything is an excuse to go to war. since when did they need to specify?

  • by Errol backfiring ( 1280012 ) on Tuesday May 31, 2011 @10:59AM (#36297010) Journal
    The USA fights anything with military force. Be it international justice, drugs, terrorists or whatever.
  • Stuxnet worm (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday May 31, 2011 @11:01AM (#36297028)

    Things that America does don't count though, right?

  • Not a new question (Score:5, Insightful)

    by N1AK ( 864906 ) on Tuesday May 31, 2011 @11:02AM (#36297050) Homepage
    The internet hasn't changed the fact that if someone doesn't want to be tied to an 'attack' they can make it hard to tell it was them, or even look like it was someone else.

    Chinese hackers using systems located in Russia to hack NSA assets is just as hard to 'prove' as China launching a Russian made ICBM from a submarine disguised as Russian in a location the Russians would likely use etc. Unless the person who attacks you basically tells you they did it to your face (and even then potentially) you're making a judgement as to what happened based on evidence.
  • Call me... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by symes ( 835608 ) on Tuesday May 31, 2011 @11:02AM (#36297056) Journal

    Call me daft, by all means, but for some reason I am incredulous that critical systems should be vulnerable to cyber attack. It just feels like something went very wrong at the design stage to allow this to happen. But then I'm not a developer...

  • The United States (Score:5, Insightful)

    by bill_mcgonigle ( 4333 ) * on Tuesday May 31, 2011 @11:03AM (#36297072) Homepage Journal

    Continually at War with some group, product, or idea since 1941.

  • by ad454 ( 325846 ) on Tuesday May 31, 2011 @11:03AM (#36297074) Journal

    The USA & Israel jointly developed the Stuxnet worm and launched it against the Iranian nuclear facilities:


    In the first documented and well-confirmed act of cyber-warfare, does this mean that both the USA and Israel have declared war against Iran, and that Iran would be in its rights to strike back at targets in both countries and kill people there?

    Gee, this is all we need, yet another war on top of Afghanistan, Iraq, and Libya.

  • How on Earth... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by diewlasing ( 1126425 ) on Tuesday May 31, 2011 @11:12AM (#36297222)
    ...can a foreign power do damage to "nuclear reactors, subways or pipelines" via a cyber attack? Seriously, I want to know, this is not a rhetorical question. Are their computer systems connected to an outside network or is there a someone on the inside (a la Stuxnet)?
  • Re:treason, too. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by c6gunner ( 950153 ) on Tuesday May 31, 2011 @11:17AM (#36297284)

    If dropping a nuke on the Pentagon is deemed an act of war, then surely placing it in such a vulnerable location in the first place must count as treason. I mean, who would knowingly place such a valuable (and apparently, easily accessed) facility that's so vital to the defence of the country, in such danger of attack in the first place?

  • Re:Simple plan (Score:4, Insightful)

    by thijsh ( 910751 ) on Tuesday May 31, 2011 @11:19AM (#36297310) Journal
    Better yet, the first time some incredible fuck-up happens that causes widespread damage and/or death and its even remotely related to computers (like anything nowadays) it can be declared an act of war by any entity. If something like the three mile island incident would happen today they would probably blame Iran or 'the terrorists'.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday May 31, 2011 @11:24AM (#36297396)
    And your proof is?
  • by ad454 ( 325846 ) on Tuesday May 31, 2011 @11:24AM (#36297402) Journal

    What about SEAL Team 6 invading Pakistan?

    Personally I think that any country that hides and shelters a terrorist that kills thousands and thousands of the civilians would be considered an act of war. Pakistan should consider itself lucky that its only got a small slap on the wrist by the USA navy seals.

  • by c6gunner ( 950153 ) on Tuesday May 31, 2011 @11:49AM (#36297718)

    I think many people would disagree.

    I think many people are retarded. So what?

    If the US decides to invade Canada tomorrow for no reason whatsoever, who's going to stop them? What do you imagine the international community will do?

    Even in the case of Iraq, the UN didn't want to do anything except write strongly worded letters. If you think international laws are actually enforcable, you're a fool.

  • by argStyopa ( 232550 ) on Tuesday May 31, 2011 @12:12PM (#36298102) Journal

    1) I'm not sure that you can assert "Wikipedia" as sufficient casus belli. "Some guy somewhere (we're not sure who) said you attacked us, this means war!"

    2) There are two levels to the article's question, both of which are directly relevant:
    - first, there's the question of 'what's worth war?' - a question that has been asked from the beginning of time, and for which there is no hard and fast answer, because it depends entirely on the context. The fact is that all countries leave this line vague, as a deterrent to any opponent ever coming close. Is shooting down another country's plane an act of war? What if they were flying close to your borders spying on you? How about axe-murdering some of your soldiers? ( None of these led to war, but can you imagine the repercussions if the US stated categorically that such actions posed no risk of war?
    - second, there is a significant risk of disinformation in real life, probably an order of magnitude greater in cyberops. The burning of the Reichstag is the first example that comes to mind, but history is littered with cat's paw, false flag, or other disinformation operations meant to convince one state that another is attacking it. If the Stuxnet virus contained comment code in Yiddish, or even "Copyright 2004(c) Israel Cyberwarfare Unit", many, many gullible people would take that as proof-positive that "the jews did it!", even though a sensible person would be dubious that the real culprit would be quite so stupid (unless, of course, it's a double-blind, but you can go a long way down that hallway if your tinfoil hat is planted firmly enough).

    My point is that it's clear that a cyber attack could be an act of war. Stating so is only marginally useful as a way to give yourself some diplomatic flexibility if you detect such an attack. "Insisting on more clarity" is at a minimum silly, unreasonable, and wholly misunderstands the context of why such statements are made. At worst, it's just another disingenuous political attack.

Logic is the chastity belt of the mind!