The US revealed its "International Strategy for Cyberspace" (PDF) yesterday. It's mostly blather about how terrific "cyberspace" is, but it gets more specific on a few key issues like national defense. Could our next war start because of a hack? The government says it's possible.
"States have an inherent right to self-defense that may be triggered by certain aggressive acts in cyberspace,” says the policy. Indeed, such aggressive acts might compel a country like the US to act even when the hacking is targeted at an allied country.
“Certain hostile acts conducted through cyberspace could compel actions under the commitments we have with our military treaty partners,” says the document. “When warranted, the United States will respond to hostile acts in cyberspace as we would any other threat to our country.”
Military force will only be used as a last resort after other diplomatic and economic remedies are attempted, but the US government has certainly realized the value of the Internet and has no intention of sitting quietly while corporate and governmental computer systems are attacked with impunity.
But the cyberspace security strategy doesn't just involve talk about playing offense; defense is stressed even more heavily. “Dissuasion” of hackers is a core goal, and it extends beyond national borders. “A globally distributed network requires globally distributed early warning capabilities,” says the strategy, which calls for “new computer security incident response capabilities globally" and interconnected network defense systems.
With the new strategy document, the government is putting the world on notice: “The United States will ensure that the risks associated with attacking or exploiting our networks vastly outweigh the potential benefits.”
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