Quick Study

By Brian Robinson

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Will cyberattacks lead to bomb-and-bullets war?

Until now, the combination of cyber and war sparked notions of virtual armies slamming away at each other in cyberspace, a nasty confrontation online but relatively harmless for regular folks.

Perhaps that’s changing. According to an Agence France-Presse story out of Davos, Switzerland, at least, the U.S. seems closer to seeing a cyberattack as the basis for a declaration of traditional war.

The AFP quotes Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, as saying that prospect is now being considered:

If someone bombed the electric grid in our country and we saw the bombers coming in it would clearly be an act of war. ... If that same country uses sophisticated computers to knock out our electricity grid, I definitely think we are getting closer to saying it is an act of war.

Some people are trying to get ahead of this scenario. At the same meeting, the head of the U.N.’s International Telecommunications Union proposed a “first strike” treaty through which signatories would agree not to be the first to launch a cyberattack. A cyber war, Hamadoun Toure said, would be catastrophic.

Is it not a little ironic that, just as the U.S. and Russia seem near to a new treaty that would significantly decrease the threat of nuclear war, we may be edging closer to war caused by virtual phantoms?

Maybe we need a new Doomsday Clock.

Posted by Brian Robinson on Feb 03, 2010 at 9:03 AM

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