Rules of cyber warfare still murky

For military planners, cyberspace is a murky domain without the clearer lines that exist in physical warfare: What constitutes a cyber attack? How does one craft an appropriate response?
 
But the results of bad decisions could be just as deadly in a nation where nearly everything depends on computer networks that are increasingly under attack. "This has got to be on the front burner. We have got to get this right," Bill Waddell, director of the Command, Control and Cyberspace Operations Group at the Army War College in Carlisle, Pa., said Sept. 18.

He and Rick Davis, director of operations for the Army's Network Enterprise Technology Command, told the Defense Systems Summit that Pentagon planners are still working out the details of a cyber warfare strategy.
 
"There's so many unanswered aspects of this," Davis said. "It's very ambiguous."
 
Cyberattacks that result in death, injury or significant destruction would likely be viewed as a use of force and could trigger a military response from the United States, State Department legal adviser Harold Koh said Sept. 18 in a speech at Ft. Meade, Md.
 
Waddell described a possible scenario where hackers attacked hospital networks to change prescriptions and care orders, resulting in people being killed by the wrong drugs or surgical procedures, and a general loss of confidence in the entire health care system. He said the Pentagon needs to take scenarios such as this into consideration in crafting a "whole-nation" defense to cyberattack.
 
"I think we have to consider: How do we change the playing field to make this successful?" he said.
 
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About the Author

Charles Hoskinson is a contributing writer for Defense Systems.

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