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Pentagon: Cyber Attacks Can Qualify as Acts of War

Death and damage from online assault can result in military response
By Mark Russell,  Newser Staff
Posted May 31, 2011 7:26 AM CDT
Updated May 31, 2011 7:54 AM CDT

(Newser) – A cyber attack on the United States or its allies can be considered an act of war and result in a military response, says the Pentagon in its first formal document outlining its cyber strategy. The 30-page classified report—unclassified portions of which will be released next month—looks at the changing face of warfare in a time when hackers can do serious damage to a country's infrastructure, reports the Wall Street Journal, which spoke to three defense officials who have read it.

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The report determines that the conduct-guiding Laws of Armed Conflict are applicable in cyberspace and is intended to serve as a warning to would-be hackers. "If you shut down our power grid, maybe we will put a missile down one of your smokestacks," said a military official. But much remains unresolved: How will the Pentagon verify the cyber attack's origins? And which types of attacks make the cut? The Journal reports that the idea of "equivalence" is gaining steam: that if an attack produces death or destruction on the scale of a traditional physical attack, that could call for a military response. (Read more cyberwarfare stories.)

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