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Behind the Government's Rules of Cyber War 117

Posted by Soulskill
from the defining-preemptive-retaliation dept.
wiredmikey writes "Deciding when malware becomes a weapon of war that warrants a response in the physical world – for example, a missile – has become a necessary part of the discussion of military doctrine. The Pentagon recently outlined (PDF) its working definition of what constitutes cyber-war and when subsequent military strikes against physical targets may be justified as result. The main issue is attribution of cyber attacks. The Department of Defense is working to develop new ways to trace the physical source of an attack and the capability to identify an attacker using behavior-based algorithms. 'If a country is going to fire a missile at someone, it better be sure it has the right target,' said one expert. A widely held misconception in the U.S. government is our offensive capabilities provide defensive advantage by identifying attacker toolkits and methods in foreign networks prior to them hitting our networks. So when do malware and cyber attacks become a weapon or act of war that warrant a real-world military response?"
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Behind the Government's Rules of Cyber War

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  • Damn Chinese hackers. Now the Congress can't have their LAN party, and the lack of recreation will greatly reduce their efficiency.
  • Causus Belli (Score:5, Insightful)

    by flaming error (1041742) on Tuesday November 29, 2011 @07:51PM (#38208834) Journal

    Constitutionally, an "act of war" is whatever Congress agrees it to be.

    Such decisions are not the Executive's to make.

    • The president can also order troops to invade another country without congressional approval. It would be political suicide to, say, wake up and invade Norway. But he can.
      • Re:Causus Belli (Score:4, Interesting)

        by Ethanol-fueled (1125189) on Tuesday November 29, 2011 @08:28PM (#38209210) Homepage Journal
        Soon, the president will be able to order troops to invade their own country [examiner.com] and indefinitely detain citizens such as those evil terrorist protesters who are all the rage these days.
      • The president can also order troops to invade another country without congressional approval.

        Several have demonstrated the ability, but they still lack the constitutional authority.

        The fact that POTUS after POTUS has done it is a failure of Congress - it is their job in such cases to impeach the POTUS, then, deliberate over a declaration of war, following which the new POTUS will be obliged to either wage that war or return the troops home.

        POTUS can argue his case, but in matters of war he is not "the decider", or even *a* decider. He's just another military commander carrying out the order he was

    • by perpenso (1613749) on Tuesday November 29, 2011 @08:04PM (#38208976)

      Constitutionally, an "act of war" is whatever Congress agrees it to be. Such decisions are not the Executive's to make.

      Actually they are. An "act of war" is something different from a "declaration of war". Congress has the ability to control declaring a war and the spending on a war, however the president commands the military. In response to an act of war the president may order the US military to attack the perpetrators, this would be a lawful order. For example as soon as the president learned of pearl harbor he could immediately order US forces to attack enemy forces, he did not have to wait for the following day when congress got the paperwork in order and formally declared war.

      • by Bucky24 (1943328)
        That's a good point. A president can't institute a draft without a formal declaration of war from congress though, which can hamper their ability to invade other countries.
      • by flaming error (1041742) on Tuesday November 29, 2011 @08:56PM (#38209484) Journal

        > the president may order the US military
        > to attack the perpetrators

        The President may order the US military to defend against an active attack. Taking the fight to the attackers requires authorization.

        > wait for the following day when congress got the
        > paperwork

        Congress may be incompetent, stupid, crazy, and deadlocked, but if there were a real attack on American soil, the most dysfunctional Congress we've ever had could get this done in the middle of the night. If Congress can't do it remotely, I'm sure a quorum of members could get individual direct transport to the capital.within a couple hours and pass something within 30 minutes.

        It would take at least that long to prove who started the cyber attack.

        • by perpenso (1613749)

          > the president may order the US military
          > to attack the perpetrators

          The President may order the US military to defend against an active attack. Taking the fight to the attackers requires authorization.

          The Constitution suggests no such limitation. As Command in Chief the President may order both defensive and offensive operations. In the Pearl Harbor example the president is free to order the military to locate, pursue and destroy the enemy forces even if those forces have disengaged and are withdrawing. Such would be a legal order.

          > wait for the following day when congress got the > paperwork

          Congress may be incompetent, stupid, crazy, and deadlocked, but if there were a real attack on American soil, the most dysfunctional Congress we've ever had could get this done in the middle of the night. If Congress can't do it remotely, I'm sure a quorum of members could get individual direct transport to the capital.within a couple hours and pass something within 30 minutes. It would take at least that long to prove who started the cyber attack.

          Modern history does not support this 30 minute hypothesis. It took a far more functional congress a day to declare war after Pearl Harbor, and that was with both an unambiguous

          • the president is free to order the military to locate, pursue and destroy the enemy forces even if those forces have disengaged and are withdrawing

            I agree. Going after somebody who just attacked you is still self-defense.

            Sending soldiers to the perpetrators' country is what requires a declaration of war. If it were not so, we'd forever have what we have today - massive foreign deployments, years of war, all without a congressional declaration of war.

            it is good that Congress has the luxury of time and may fully deliberate whether a formal declaration of war is necessary

            I agree with the sentiment. If an act were really an unambiguous act of war, I think the decision would be a no-brainer. Otherwise, I agree, they need to talk it out, while POTUS makes plans and waits

            • by perpenso (1613749)

              the president is free to order the military to locate, pursue and destroy the enemy forces even if those forces have disengaged and are withdrawing

              I agree. Going after somebody who just attacked you is still self-defense.

              No. It is well established in law that when an attacker disengages and attempts to leave you are no longer under imminent threat and the right to self defense no longer exists.

              Sending soldiers to the perpetrators' country is what requires a declaration of war. If it were not so, we'd forever have what we have today - massive foreign deployments, years of war, all without a congressional declaration of war.

              There is no such restriction in the Constitution. Pursuing an attacker into his national territory would be a legal order. Pre-emptively striking an attacker's other military assets in its national territory would also be a legal order.

              it is good that Congress has the luxury of time and may fully deliberate whether a formal declaration of war is necessary

              I agree with the sentiment. If an act were really an unambiguous act of war, I think the decision would be a no-brainer. Otherwise, I agree, they need to talk it out, while POTUS makes plans and waits for authorization to strike.

              Not quite. What gives Congress the luxury of time is that the President is already acting, or more a

              • So that line in the constitution about the power to declare war belonging to congress - what exactly do you think that means?

                • by perpenso (1613749)

                  So that line in the constitution about the power to declare war belonging to congress - what exactly do you think that means?

                  A declaration of war is a formal document announcing a state of war between two nations. It is not the only path to a state of war, for example an attack can also create a state of war. Note that when President Roosevelt went before Congress to ask for a declaration of war he indicates that a state of war already exists.

                  • So it's your argument that the constitution gave Congress the power to write a formal document which is legally irrelevant?

                    • by perpenso (1613749)

                      So it's your argument that the constitution gave Congress the power to write a formal document which is legally irrelevant?

                      Careful, I'm happy to discuss this topic as long as you are being serious and intelligent, as you have been so far.

                      My argument is that the ability of the President to order the military into combat is not dependent upon a declaration of war, that an act of war is one sufficient alternative. For example a state of war existed the moment Pearl Harbor was bombed and the President was free to order combat operations against the military forces of the attacking nation regardless of where those forces were loc

                    • So a declaration is irrelevant if we were attacked, and "more relevant" when we start the fight? What exactly does "more relevant" mean?

                      If Congress disagreed they could enact a law saying that spending money on those operations was illegal. At that point the military would refuse the presidential order as it would now be an illegal order. That is the check and balance, not the formal declaration of war

                      What congress would tell the military not to spend money on combat when they're already in the middle of a fight? Where in the chain of command are the officers who will decide their commander's formerly legal orders have become illegal? On what grounds would Congress impeach the Pres - for starting a war he was allowed to start but congress decided ex post facto that i

                    • by perpenso (1613749)

                      So a declaration is irrelevant if we were attacked, ...

                      In the sense that the state of war was created by a foreign nation and the President issuing immediate tactical orders to the military in response.

                      ... and "more relevant" when we start the fight? What exactly does "more relevant" mean?

                      It creates the state of war.

                      If Congress disagreed they could enact a law saying that spending money on those operations was illegal. At that point the military would refuse the presidential order as it would now be an illegal order. That is the check and balance, not the formal declaration of war.

                      What congress would tell the military not to spend money on combat when they're already in the middle of a fight?

                      The Congress that wanted the US forces to disengage and withdraw. Congress threatened exactly such action during the Spanish American War when it learned that the US had attacked Spanish forces in the Philippines, not just in the Caribbean.

                      Where in the chain of command are the officers who will decide their commander's formerly legal orders have become illegal?

                      Most likely the joint chiefs.

                      On what grounds would Congress impeach the Pres

                      As you said in your original post, "whatever Congress agrees it to

      • by dak664 (1992350)

        But after the executive response to the act of war the Presidential ass out to be on the line until there is a Congressional confirmation of war. I don't even mind a silly declaration of War on Drugs or War on Terrorism or War on Unfair Trade as long as all three branches of government have to commit to the process. Better theater if nothing else.

      • by dcollins (135727)

        "... however the president commands the military."

        In the U.S. Constitution, that power has a big qualifier on it. "The President shall be Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy of the United States, and of the Militia of the several States, when called into the actual Service of the United States." [Article 2, Section 2, Clause 1] My best reading is that he's not Commander in Chief until Congress officially taps him thus with a declaration of war.

        • by perpenso (1613749)

          "... however the president commands the military."

          In the U.S. Constitution, that power has a big qualifier on it. "The President shall be Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy of the United States, and of the Militia of the several States, when called into the actual Service of the United States." [Article 2, Section 2, Clause 1] My best reading is that he's not Commander in Chief until Congress officially taps him thus with a declaration of war.

          That is an erroneous reading. "When called into the actual Service of the United States" is merely indicating that the president is not normally in command of the state militia. Note that the Commander in Chief of the state militia (or today's National Guard) is normally the Governor of the state. Also note that a declaration of war is not necessary to move the National Guard from state to federal service. National Guard and Air National Guard units served in combat during Korea, Vietnam, Gulf War and today

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by dak664 (1992350)

      Would it were so. Google police action. According to wikipedia the US has engaged in military actions at least 125 times without prior authorization of Congress. World War II was the last authorized war. Even the Civil War needed no authorization because the opposition was a "belligerent power" and not a "sovereign nation".

    • by slick7 (1703596)

      Constitutionally, an "act of war" is whatever Congress agrees it to be.

      Such decisions are not the Executive's to make.

      The real test will come when we start getting our collective asses kicked by some N. Korean script kiddie.

  • just name a nuke as a nuke power plan that when hacked fires at the hacker.

  • by guanxi (216397) on Tuesday November 29, 2011 @07:58PM (#38208904)

    'If a country is going to fire a missile at someone, it better be sure it has the right target,' said one expert.

    Not true, unfortunately. How many wars have started based on false information? Off the top of my head:

      * The Spanish-American War: Remember that the Maine sunk by accident
      * The Vietnam War: The Gulf of Tonkin
      * The Iraq War: No WMDs and no connection to Al Queda.

    • by Hartree (191324)

      So, you're saying that if the right target is the wrong one, fire at the left target?

    • by Anonymous Coward

      'If a country is going to fire a missile at someone, it better be sure it has the right target,' said one expert.

      I thought that particular statement is quite ironic given the recent attacks on the Pakistani border outposts.

    • Not true, unfortunately. How many wars have started based on false information? Off the top of my head:

      * The Spanish-American War: Remember that the Maine sunk by accident

      It's probably not widely known in the USA, but after the Maine blew up (and completely irrelevant to it), Spain declared war on the USA before we could get around to declaring war on them.

      * The Vietnam War: The Gulf of Tonkin

      One real attack on a US warship, one (most likely) imaginary one. No declaration of war by the USA.

      BLOCKQUOT

      • by Pi1grim (1956208)

        Chemical weapons? You mean they found old socks and bags of beans there?
        AFAIK no WMDs were recovered, instead the public was fed "we haven't found them yet, but they're there, that's for sure". And a couple of specialists that dared questioning the presence of WMDs were found dead in the woods.

    • 'If a country is going to fire a missile at someone, it better be sure it has the right target,' said one expert.

      Not true, unfortunately.

      Did you even read what you wrote? Because what you just said is "no, they don't need to make sure before sending a missile".

      How many wars have started based on false information?

      While it will get you modded insightful, this is irrelevant to the first portion of your message.

      • by Leuf (918654)
        They only need to make sure the missile isn't going to piss off anyone that matters too much. If they can't do anything about it, then they don't matter. If they can do something, but it's not going to be enough to get them to actually do it, then they don't matter either.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    ... Nigerian spammers!

  • What happens when the missiles get hacked and detonate without launching?
    • by c0lo (1497653)

      What happens when the missiles get hacked and detonate without launching?

      Identify the source and stone the attacker to death.

      • "Identify the source and stone the attacker to death"

        Bob Dylan would be proud.

        • by c0lo (1497653)

          Bob Dylan would be proud.

          As he's still alive, you should correct the tense or replace Dylan with someone closer to be a role model in this respect (Jim Morrison would be the first to pop into my mind. Bon Scott almost qualifies as well).

          • by Hartree (191324)

            How does it imply he's deceased?

            Exampe: It's fine to say "I would be proud." about a hypothetical event. Let me assure you I'm no zombie.

            • by c0lo (1497653)
              Ok, Ok. My fault. However, it still a sub-optimal choice of "stone to death" role model.

              Besides, this is /. - who the hell has rainy days women... even more, at least 35 of them?

              • by Hartree (191324)

                "who the hell has rainy days women... even more, at least 35 of them?"

                Hope springs eternal in the hearts of fools and slashdotters.

  • Isn't it easy for some attacker to pretend they are somewhere else on the network? Also, chances are the behavior-based algorithms would need ten to twenty years of tuning before they are reliable (also with respect to real attacker pretending)

    Looks like a project that is easy to spend a lot of money on, but with little accountability.

    S

  • by paulsnx2 (453081) on Tuesday November 29, 2011 @08:05PM (#38208982)

    Just to be clear here, many "hawks" claim to follow "Christian Values".

    Let's consider the Old Testament values:

    leviticus 24:19-24:21

    19 Anyone who maims another shall suffer the same injury in return:
    20 fracture for fracture, eye for eye, tooth for tooth; the injury inflicted is the injury to be suffered.
    21 One who kills an animal shall make restitution for it; but one who kills a human being shall be put to death.

    Now the idea here is when you are wronged, you *can't* inflect more suffering than you suffered. There is a limit.

    Then Jesus came along, and said this was an *upper limit* not a lower limit. You should instead return good for evil. In other words, these Christian Hawks should consider the fact that their ideas of bombing someone because of malware doesn't even past Old Testament standards, much less those of Christianity. How does a crashed computer equate to blowing up a house or office and killing who knows how many innocents in the process?

    I am getting very tired of wars and conflicts to line the pockets of various corporate interests. How about we start demanding ethical principles of our leaders rather than buying into their excuses to abuse people abroad, and increasingly, Citizens at home. What is it going to take for people to realize that our government is getting out of hand, and is not behaving in line with our moral and ethical traditions? Seriously, we hear more concern out of our Religious leaders about allowing same sex marriage than we do the killing of 10's and sometimes 100's of women and children!

    There *is* something seriously wrong with the morals of this country. When are we going to realize that we are supposed to come to people's aid when they are in need, to hear them when they cry out for relief? That we are not supposed to react by blowing them up?

    • Actually we're a secular nation.
      • by Anonymous Coward

        One nation under God.

        In God we trust.

      • by paulsnx2 (453081)

        I did not mean to imply we *are* a Christian Nation, but to point out that many "Christian" Hawks say one thing, and ignore what it means otherwise.

        I did a quick re-read of my post, and I think this is at least close to what I wrote.

        • by Jiro (131519)

          You're ignoring some of the violence in the Bible. For instance, look at the book of Revelations and how it speaks approvingly of war and torture. Certainly Christians can easily take these parts literally as well as the other parts. (And even if the torture is a metaphor, the comparison still implies that torture is good.)

          Besides, the US is currently run by Obama. He's not a Christian hawk, but he managed to attack Libya without Congressional approval, and the only reason we're out of Iraq is that the

          • by paulsnx2 (453081)

            > You're ignoring some of the violence in the Bible. For instance, look at the book of
            > Revelations and how it speaks approvingly of war and torture. Certainly Christians
            > can easily take these parts literally as well as the other parts. (And even if the
            > torture is a metaphor, the comparison still implies that torture is good.)

            It is a small post on Slashdot, not a comprehensive defense of pacifism in Christianity. The only point I was making is that we have in the texts certain standards for g

    • by Xaide (1015779)
      Until we find a more suitable place to live, how do you propose we thin out the ever-growing human population?
    • Why would that be a hindrance to all of us hawks who have never claimed to follow christian values? ;)

      • by paulsnx2 (453081)

        Some ethical and moral principles apply regardless. I think as an upper limit only inflicting harm proportional to the harm done to you is a pretty reasonable ethical and moral standard regardless of your ethical/moral/religious views.

        Some multiple of the harm to you might be okay as a deterrent, in the mind of some.

        Almost anyone would consider someone who can forgive and forgo retribution to be someone following a high moral and ethical standard.

        See? I think the post *can* apply, even if you are in no wa

        • by Jiro (131519)

          . I think as an upper limit only inflicting harm proportional to the harm done to you is a pretty reasonable ethical and moral standard regardless of your ethical/moral/religious views.

          I don't accept that standard.

          The reason is that sometimes the amount of harm done is reduced through no desire of the attacker. Your argument says that the better your bomb shelters are, the less you are justified in attacking an enemy (since by using the bomb shelters, you reduced the casualty count on your side, and if the

          • I think as an upper limit only inflicting harm proportional to the harm done to you is a pretty reasonable ethical and moral standard regardless of your ethical/moral/religious views.

            I don't accept that standard. ... The reason is that sometimes the amount of harm done is reduced through no desire of the attacker.

            I agree that limiting yourself to the actual harm done is overly strict. There are two components involved here. Whether the harm was accidental or deliberate, the one causing the harm owes restitution for actual damages, i.e. must "make whole" the one who was harmed. A choice not to make restitution can itself be classified as deliberate harm. In addition, if the harm was deliberate, I would suggest that the upper limit for retribution be set proportional to what the other party chose to do, even if outsid

    • by artor3 (1344997) on Tuesday November 29, 2011 @08:31PM (#38209232)

      One of my favorite verses is "Don't try to do good through evil; overcome evil with good." (Somewhere in Romans, I don't memorize the numbers.) The Republicans respond to this by torturing people without so much as a trial, assuring us all that it's for the best. And this is the party that likes to present itself as defenders of the faith. And even worse, it seems like most self-proclaimed Christians supported the torture.

      I wish they'd just drop the act and admit that they aren't religious, they just hate gays and sexually active women.

    • by jpapon (1877296)
      In spite of what you say, they are following the rules you quoted exactly. They are merely trying to identify what constitutes an "eye" when the attack is digital. Just because the weapon was a hacker intrusion doesn't mean it can't kill or harm people. The same evaluations were made long ago with other forms of technology. The conclusion, and rightly so, that providing information which leads to killing is equivalent to killing, was made a long time ago.
      • by dcollins (135727)

        "Just because the weapon was a hacker intrusion doesn't mean it can't kill or harm people."

        FUD. When was there ever a hack that has killed people? Meanwhile, the U.S. drops illegal bombs from killer drones around the world every day.

        • by jpapon (1877296)
          Yes, and when have we ever gone to war over a hack? Just because it hasn't happened doesn't mean you shouldn't make a plan for it in case it does.
    • by Fluffeh (1273756)

      Seriously, we hear more concern out of our Religious leaders about allowing same sex marriage than we do the killing of 10's and sometimes 100's of women and children!

      Most of your Religious Leaders are in fact political creatures just like most politicians. They might internally be thinking about the killings of 10's and 100's - but they preach what will be most likely to generate attention.

      The average US citizen doesn't care about 10's or 100's of people dying in some other country at their hand. To make a point, where was the US outrage about the NATO strike [globalpost.com] that killed 24 Pakistani soldiers [bbc.co.uk]. Pakistan is taking this latest attack so seriously that is has given US force

    • by gknoy (899301)

      How does a crashed computer equate to blowing up a house or office and killing who knows how many innocents in the process?

      While I see what you're getting at (Christianity promoting forgiveness, which seems at odds with air strikes), I believe the point is that it's not merely "a hacked computer" that is considered harmful. What matters is what the computer is connected to:

      A hack of a SCADA system at some important facility could harm all sorts of stuff.
      A hack of a power grid or air traffic control system would surely injure many, and probably kill quite a few as well.
      A hack of the control systems for flood protection systems,

      • Dont you think that these type of systems should NOT be hooked up to the internet and that putting them on the internet is just asking for sh*t to go wrong?

        If they really need to be networked with other computers maybe they should invest in their own fiber cables, I mean aren't there plenty of dark fiber [wikipedia.org] for them to buy

        And what about locking down the computers themselves, I believe Stuxnet and the Wikileaks deals were because you can just plug a flash drive in and hit copy, who thought that was a good id

    • by EnempE (709151)
      I am going to avoid the religious flamebait here, as far as I know there was a deliberate separation of church and state in the US. We should actually talk about the moral standard that you are referencing, which is more or less utilitarian in nature. Can we equate a crashed computer to blowing up a house. I would propose the following scenario.
      The wealthy 1% of some country somewhere, highly educated and with malicious intent manipulate the medical information systems in a number of hosptials in the ma
    • Oh c'mon, religion has been used as an excuse to go to war since times immemorial. You can't change the rules now. Besides, as long as that enemy follows a different religion, it's all fine and fair game.

      For reference, see crusades, 30 years war, etc.

    • Sadly, people have been trying to lawyer all the "thou shalt not kill" out of religion for thousands of years.

  • This is just more bullshit from a belligerent, warmongering nation. 'Nuff said.

  • Is it fair to start a war with an entire country because of the act of one or a small group of individuals? and when it is a small group of internationally scattered individuals, which country(s) do you attack, all of them? what if one of the people were Americans? or a close ally? is it worth risking all-out World Wide war because of a handful of hackers living in their parent's basements? The question really is difficult to ascertain. This is not unlike the problem of the war on bin Laden, do you at
    • by jpapon (1877296)
      Yes. You attack the people who attacked you, until they don't want to attack you anymore.
    • For instance, in the case of bin Laden, we knew for a fact that he was in Afghanistan at the time. We asked them to extradite him, all in accordance with the treaty that both the USA and Afghanistan had signed. The Taliban government refused to honor that treaty. So diplomacy had already broken down, and war was basically the only option.

      In your other example, we have good relations with all of those countries, and we hope that their governments are not (very) belligerent towards us, at least not to where t

  • It used to be worst case your arch nemesis would social engineer themselves a scary but somewhat amusing swat raid at 3am..

    Death from above raining on my parade with live ordinance is no joke.

    There is no algorithm possible that can say for sure where an attack came from. Such technology simply does not exist especially in the face of thinking advasaries who would undoubtably seek to use US munitionions as a force multipler against their advasaries. Not all conspiracies are false.

  • So when do malware and cyber attacks become a weapon or act of war that warrant a real-world military response?

    Same as every other war. Whenever the arms industry, the mass media, and whatever industries want the raw resources of the purported attacker manage to get the public frothed up enough that opportunists in the executive and legislative branches feel secure about being reelected if they start a war. There's not a lot of point in coming up with cover stories ahead of time.[1] There's always plenty of time between the campaign contributions and the actual deployment of the fleets to test ad campaigns and sloga

  • by Hentes (2461350) on Tuesday November 29, 2011 @09:53PM (#38209944)

    The US should stop putting such stupid people in top military positions, this is extremely dangerous. Is my country going to be nuked the next time a Chinese hacker decides to use a proxy from here?

    Cyberwarfare is a fearmongering buzzword so the military types can get all the permissions they need. Just because an exploit is often called an 'attack' , it has nothing to do with a physical attack. Most attacks have a much better real-life analogy:

    Cyber espionage

    99% of the attacks is actually analogous to some form of espionage. Most attacks aim to get information, which could hardly be classified as warfare. And even the ones that cause informational or physical damage are actually acts of sabotage, a part of espionage.

    Cyber espionage has three main properties: it is anonymous, it can be done by a single person or very few people and it can be defended against perfectly.

    Thus, a counterattack in case of cyber espionage is impossible as you can't ever be sure who the attacker is, and they might be just a few independent hackers messing around. The optimal course of action is to prepare the defences to resist such an attack, by securing the networks, not placing critical infrastructure on the net, forcing employees to obey security protocols and finally hiring whitehats to test the defences.

    Now on the other hand, there IS such thing that can be called:

    Cyber warfare

    Cyber warfare is also called a denial of service attack, and is fundamentally different from cyber espionage. It's purpose is always the same simple thing: prevent a machine to be accessed from the Internet. Its dangers are that it can disrupt and cause huge losses to companies providing services through the Internet, it can block access to infrastructures that can only be controlled online, and it can prevent the public from accessing certain pieces of information.

    Cyber warfare is not anonymous, done by a large number of IP addresses, and can't be defended against. While it can be done by a national "cyber army", even in this case physical retaliation is not advised. It's much easier to just not accept incoming connections from said country untilthe problem is resolved in a diplomatic way. Also, a DoS attack can be done by a group of insurgents/activists or a single botnet controller. In the first case, they should be reported to their country, asking them for action in a form of "cyber ultimatum": if they don't disconnect and investigate those users, connections from the whole country will be blocked. In the case of hacked computers, the owner of the Internet connection should be held responsible for securing it. Thus, even a cyber warfare scenario could be handled without resorting to violence.

    Sadly, the Pentagon is full of these aggressive lunatics, and it's even more said that the American government does little against this nonsense.

    • by bouldin (828821)

      I pretty much agree with your conclusions, but have a couple quibbles.

      Cyber warfare is also called a denial of service attack, and is fundamentally different from cyber espionage.

      Cyber warfare is not anonymous, done by a large number of IP addresses, and can't be defended against.

      You're right that the purpose of an attack is to disrupt the target machines, but it won't always be a DDOS attack. Stuxnet was a worm with a targeted payload; if the German researcher hadn't found it and gone public, Iran might not have ever figured out why their centrifuges weren't working as anticipated.

      But Stuxnet doesn't fit neatly into cyberwarfare. I'd say it fits better into a third category: Covert Action, which is, by design,

    • by T Murphy (1054674)
      The government is simply trying to define what would be an act of war, as opposed to leaving it undefined. If you're so afraid of aggressive lunatics in the Pentagon you should be very happy the government is preventing them from having free interpretation of what to consider an act of war.

      While I agree that it is difficult, if not impossible, to squarely attribute an attack as sponsored by a foreign government, I think it would be bad policy to say we will never consider a military response to any form o
      • by Hentes (2461350)

        Threats only work if you have something to back it up with. After a while, you will encounter someone (for example a crazy dictator) who will call your bluff. Also, if physical retaliation is an option, some countries might start to fake attacks originating from other countries just to worsen relations with the US.

        That said, I don't want the warmonger types making the calls on this, as I don't expect we could reasonably move beyond just threatening physical retaliation given the uncertainties involved.

        So who do you want to decide? Would you trust your President, or your congress not to go beyond threats?

  • So the US wants to physically attack the internet? The same one that they designed to sustain a nuclear attack?
    • by spauldo (118058)

      A couple points:

      1) The internet was not designed to withstand a nuclear attack. Seriously. Packet switching was developed as part of a project to provide such a network, but that network was never built. You can see for yourself - there are plenty of logical maps of the ARPANET around, and there are a lot of single points of failure. Given the hysteria of the times (think Cuban missile crisis and escalating cold war tensions), if such a network had been designed, it would have been put into widespread

  • Kudos to wiredmikey (and the ed?) for capturing that attribution of an attack is the key sticking point for military response.

    Attributing attacks in a packet switched network like the Internet is just a fantasy.. Sure, you can trace an attack back to, say, China, but how do you know the attack originated there? You don't, unless China cooperates and gives your forensics experts access to their networks. Which probably will not happen.

    So the hawks want to shore up some credibility for attribution. Here i

    • Attributing attacks in a packet switched network like the Internet is just a fantasy.. Sure, you can trace an attack back to, say, China, but how do you know the attack originated there? You don't, unless China cooperates and gives your forensics experts access to their networks.

      I'd say you might be onto something here. "Allow us to do a search of those computers there. What? No, we don't care if they contain trade secrets (nudge, nudge, wink, wink), but they attacked us! And you don't want us to retaliate, do you? If you didn't do anything wrong, you have nothing to worry about."

  • First, I'm a pacifist doing research into cyber deterrence and self defense, so I'm really interested in this topic and what /. posters have to say on it. I studied international law purely to understand these sorts of issues, so here's some of the information that I gleaned from research.

    As others have pointed out, technical attribution is unattainable right now. You'd think this would be a deterrent, but there are some legal theorists out there that suggest imputing responsibility to the country that is

  • They might have included in their doctrine when starving the economy and blocking international trade becomes enough of a reason to send missiles.

One man's constant is another man's variable. -- A.J. Perlis

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