The NYTimes has a piece analyzing the policy discussions in the US around the question of what should be the proper stance towards offensive cyberwarfare
. This is a question that the Bush administration wrestled with, before deciding that the outgoing president didn't have the political capital left to grapple with it. The article notes two instances in which President Bush approved the use of offensive cyberattacks; but these were exceptions, and the formation of a general policy was left to the Obama administration. "Senior Pentagon and military officials also express deep concern that the laws and understanding of armed conflict have not kept current with the challenges of offensive cyberwarfare. Over the decades, a number of limits on action have been accepted — if not always practiced. One is the prohibition against assassinating government leaders. Another is avoiding attacks aimed at civilians. Yet in the cyberworld, where the most vulnerable targets are civilian, there are no such rules or understandings. If a military base is attacked, would it be a proportional, legitimate response to bring down the attacker's power grid if that would also shut down its hospital systems, its air traffic control system, or its banking system?"