Pentagon Classifies Cyber Attacks as Acts of War Worthy of Military Retaliation

On Tuesday, officials at the Pentagon – the hub of US national security – finished preparing its first formal cyber strategy, according to the Wall Street Journal.

The Pentagon’s first formal cyber strategy, unclassified portions of which are expected to become public next month, represents an early attempt to grapple with a changing world in which a hacker could pose as significant a threat to U.S. nuclear reactors, subways or pipelines as a hostile country’s military.

The top military brass has concluded that computer sabotage originating from another country “can constitute an act of war.” This development is the first of its kind that opens the door to potential military force in response to a cyber attack.

“A cyber attack is governed by basically the same rules as any other kind of attack if the effects of it are essentially the same,” said Charles Dunlap, a retired Air Force Major General. “The U.S. would need to show that the cyber weapon used had an effect that was the equivalent of a conventional attack.”

So would this play out in reality?

“If you shut down our power grid, maybe we will put a missile down one of your smokestacks,” one military official told The Wall Street Journal.

According to some inside the Pentagon, the new strategy underscores the principle of “equivalence.” In other words, if a cyber attack is responsible for the same death, damage, destruction or high-level disruption, a “traditional military” attack would result in, then the US government would be justified in using force in retaliation.