A recent classified review of the US government policies regarding engagement in cyber space warfare showed that the country’s president has the authority to order a preemptive cyberstrike on any state that is detected to be planning a major digital attack on the United States.
The effort to develop ground rules for the US military’s engagement in cyber space has been going on for some time. With the digital space taking a major place in the country’s and its people’s everyday life, digital attacks carry very real risks and dire consequences for the country and its citizens. The US Administration takes these risks very seriously and has developed a considerable arsenal of cyberweapons that can be employed to ward off a serious attack.
The new rules will outline how the US military can use its cyber arsenal to defend against or strike back after an unfriendly nation launches a cyberattack on the country. The rules will also provide clear guidelines for how far the country’s intelligence agencies may go to obtain information on other states’ plans in cyberwarfare, and how they can try to prevent attacks by injecting destructive code into faraway networks. These rules are not something that is going to be made public.
This news comes after the announcement of the Pentagon’s plans to expand its Cyber Command, including proposed plans to add several thousand troops to the unit and create 3 separate subforces within it, each having its own task and responsibilities. According to a military official, the Command will include Cyber National Mission Forces, Cyber Combat Mission Forces and Cyber Protection Forces. The policy will also draw a distinct line between military and civilian areas of responsibility, preventing the military from responding to cyberattacks on civilian targets in the USA.
The Administration has been criticized for putting too much effort into building up offensive capabilities while they should be preparing for defensive resiliency. Critics claim that it is far more urgent for the United States to ramp up defenses in the cyberspace, but this need remains in the shadow of the offensive strategies being developed. Yet other critics go as far as to state that the cyberthreat is being blown out of proportion by consulting firms that see it as a potential source of serious income.