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Pentagon Prepared to 'Use All Necessary Means' to Protect Against Cyber Attacks

“When warranted, we will respond to hostile attacks in cyberspace..."

The U.S. military announced yesterday that it is prepared to respond to cyber threats against the country and its infrastructure as it would to any other threat on ground, sea or air.

According to Forbes, the Department of Defense released its report to Congress giving the military a specific role in the event of a cyber attack:

“When warranted, we will respond to hostile attacks in cyberspace as we would to any other threat to our country,” the report said. “We reserve the right to use all necessary means — diplomatic, informational, military and economic — to defend our nation, our allies, our partners and our interests.”

[...]

Previous initiatives have authorized the U.S. to partner with other nations, like Australia, to combat online threats, but have suffered from lack of clarity surrounding offensive measures the Pentagon may take to seek out and destroy cyber-threats.

This latest report begins to bridge the gap between offensive and defensive measures, stating the DoD reserves the right to retaliate physically against hackers after exhausting other, more peaceful means.

Forbes reports both private and government sector cyber attacks are on the rise. As an example, a couple weeks ago, the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission implied that China hacked into two U.S. environment-monitoring satellites at least four times in 2007 and 2008, saying "the techniques appear consistent with authoritative Chinese military writings." China soon thereafter denied any involvement in those hacks and even more recently a U.S. military official admits there just wasn't enough evidence left behind to pin the attack on anyone specific, revealing a point of weakness, according to the Wall Street Journal:

“The best information that I have is that we cannot attribute those two occurrences,” the Reuters news agency quoted General Robert Kehler, commander of the U.S. Strategic Command, as saying in a teleconference.

“I guess I would agree that we don’t have sufficient detail,” he said.

Reuters reports Kehler as saying in a teleconference yesterday that figuring out the military doctrine and legal framework are "ongoing" and that "it's not completed," but progress has been made and rules of engagement are in place. According to Reuters, the report believes that the U.S. building stronger defenses in cyberspace will deter attacks in the first place: "Should the 'deny objectives' element of deterrence not prove adequate," the report said, "DoD (Department of Defense) maintains, and is further developing, the ability to respond militarily in cyberspace and in other domains."

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