Cyber attacks could justify military force

Tuesday - 5/31/2011, 1:38pm EDT

By Jolie Lee
Federal News Radio

A cyber attack from another country could constitute an act of war and warrant military action, according to a Pentagon document that will be released next month.

The Wall Street Journal reports this is the first time the Defense Department has considered using military combat in response to a sabotage of computer networks.

The cyber policy would define the role of the hacker as possibly as significant as a threat posed by nuclear reactors or bombs, depending on the level of disruption caused by the attack, the Journal reports.

The Journal quoted one military official, who said, "If you shut down our power grid, maybe we will put a missile down one of your smokestacks."

Cyber attacks on the United States and, most recently, government contractor Lockheed Martin, have increased the urgency of developing a strong cyber policy, the Journal reports.

Earlier this month, the White House released its cybersecurity policy to expand the role of the Homeland Security Department, giving DHS authority over civilian networks similar to how DoD has authority over military networks.

"Our nation is at risk. The cybersecurity vulnerabilities in our government and critical infrastructure are a risk to national security, public safety, and economic prosperity," according to a statement from the Obama administration.

This story is part of Federal News Radio's daily Cybersecurity Update brought to you by Tripwire. For more cybersecurity news, click here.