US Government says cyber attacks may be acts of war

Pentagon to make it official US policy to consider cyber attacks 'acts of war' and respond with real-world force

The Pentagon is set to make it official US policy to consider cyber attacks "acts of war", and respond to them with real-world force, the Wall Street Journal reports.

The strategy, which becomes public next month, will both provide guidance to the US armed forces, as well as make a statement to the country's enemies. Cyber terrorism is certainly a big issue for officials, as increasing portions of the country's infrastructure are "online."

This announcement comes just a few days after Lockheed Martin, a major US defence contractor, was the subject of a "significant and tenacious (cyber) attack." The company has stressed that no sensitive information was exposed during the attack.

According to The Journal, military officials are still in disagreement about how cyber attacks should be handled, specifically, when and when not a real-life military response is warranted. The Journal says officials seem to be settling on the "eye for an eye" concept, which means that the military would be able to respond to a cyber attack that causes physical damage, injury, or death.

Very few virtual attacks are capable of causing this kind of harm, however. If this position is used, many cyber attacks will not constitute brute-force retaliation. That's not to say military-employed hackers won't have the right to go in and take down an enemy's computer system in response, though.

In many cases, this seems like the most valid and acceptable way to go.

Regardless of official strategy, how best to respond to cyber terrorism is something experts and officials have been debating for years since 9/11.

Terrorism experts often warn that the next terrorist attacks could be virtual--although, so far, all cyber attacks have been minor in scope.

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