Military gets cyber war guidelines

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Members of Congress are working on a number of bills to address cybersecurity and have encouraged such public-private partnerships, particularly to secure critical infrastructure. But they also warn of privacy concerns.

“We must institute strict oversight to ensure that no personal communications or sensitive data are inappropriately shared with the government by businesses,” said Rep. Jim Langevin, D-R.I., who served as co-chairman of the Center for Strategic and International Studies’ cybersecurity commission.

Cyber security experts and defense officials have varying views of cyber war, but they agree that it will be a part of any future conflict.

At a recent Capitol Hill hearing, incoming Pentagon chief Leon Panetta, the outgoing CIA director, said the U.S. must be aggressive in offensive and defensive countermeasures.

“I’ve often said that there’s a strong likelihood that the next Pearl Harbor that we confront could very well be a cyberattack that cripples our power systems, our grid, our security systems, our financial systems, our governmental systems,” he said.

Stewart Baker, a former Homeland Security official, said Americans need to come to grips with the idea that cyber warfare could hit the U.S. homeland.

“We’ve had 50 years in which we haven’t really had to rethink what might happen in a war here,” he said. “We need to think very hard about an actual strategy about how to win a war in which cyber weapons are prominently featured.”

Part of that thinking, Baker said, involves ensuring that the U.S. has strong firewalls to prevent attacks and that there are established routes into the networks of potential enemies.

But officials also say that cyber capabilities must be put in perspective.

“It’s a decisive weapon, but it’s not a super weapon,” said Lewis. “It’s not a nuclear bomb.”

It is, however, a new weapon that hackers, criminals and other nations are honing. Already hackers have breached military networks and weapons programs, including key defense contractor Lockheed Martin.

Military officials have also warned repeatedly of cyberattacks and intrusions coming out of China, Russia and Eastern Europe.

“Regrettably,” Lynn said, “few weapons in the history of warfare, once created, have gone unused. For this reason, we must have the capability to defend against the full range of cyber threats.”

Lynn predicted that terror groups eventually will learn how to launch crippling cyberattacks.

Important questions linger about the role of neutral countries. Hackers routinely route their attacks through networks of innocent computers that could be anywhere, including in the U.S. Often it may be difficult to tell exactly where an attack originated or who did it, although forensic capabilities are steadily improving.

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