Administration and military sources have confirmed that the Pentagon has decided computer sabotage by another country may force the U.S. to retaliate militarily. The type of cyber attack that would trigger retaliation would have to be serious enough to threaten American lives, commerce, infrastructure or worse, and there would have to be indisputable evidence leading to the nation state involved, NBC Pentagon correspondent Jim Miklaszewski said.
The Pentagon’s 30-page strategy has unclassified parts that are expected to be revealed to the public later this month. A military source described the idea of the strategy to the Wall Street Journal this way, “If you shut down our power grid, maybe we will put a missile down one of your smokestacks.” Another idea, reported in the Journal, is that of “equivalence” in which the cyber attack would have to be as tragic as a typical U.S. military attack would be. Ultimately it would be the president’s decision — not the Pentagon’s — to launch a conventional military attack no matter the offense or the target, Miklaszewski reported.
When Obama took office in 2009, he made Cybersecurity a top priority, setting off several government-wide reviews to create strategies to organize how the U.S. will better secure government, business and public online activity.
The Department of Homeland Security is also slowly developing an automated system — known as Einstein 2 and Einstein 3 — to protect government agencies’ computer systems.
Rich Mogull, analyst and CEO of Phoenix-based security research firm Securosis,said that governments and defense agencies have been spying on each other throughout history. Computers have just made it easier to do so electronically. William Lynn III, the deputy defense secretary, said in January that more than 100 foreign intelligence agencies have tried to breach U.S. defense computer networks, largely to steal military plans and weapons systems designs.