Washington: The Pentagon and its NATO allies are looking at how to improve their defenses against a cyber war, but the basic question of how to define a cyber attack is complicating efforts.
The Pentagon says it is rapidly preparing for cyber war in the face of alarming and growing threats.
Senior defense officials said that the looming threat of sophisticated attacks has prompted them to take the striking step of investigating the feasibility of expanding NATO’s collective defense tenet to include cyberspace.
They, however, note that the military is struggling with some basics of warfare – including how to define exactly what, for starters, constitutes an attack, and what level of cyber attack warrants a cyber-reprisal.
“I mean, clearly if you take down significant portions of our economy we would probably consider that an attack,” the Washington Post quoted William Lynn, Deputy Secretary of Defense, as saying recently.
Today, one of the challenges facing Pentagon strategists is “deciding at what threshold do you consider something an attack,” Mr. Lynn said.
“I think the policy community both inside and outside the government is wrestling with that, and I don’t think we’ve wrestled it to the ground yet,” he added.
Equally tricky, defense officials say, is how to pinpoint who is doing the attacking. And this raises further complications that go to the heart of the Pentagon’s mission.
“If you don’t know who to attribute an attack to, you can’t retaliate against that attack,” noted Lynn in a recent discussion at the Council on Foreign Relations.