US to view major cyber attacks as acts of war

The newspaper said the Pentagon plans to unveil its first-ever strategy regarding cyber warfare next month, in part as a warning to foes that may try to sabotage the country’s electricity grid, subways or pipelines.

“If you shut down our power grid, maybe we will put a missile down one of your smokestacks,” it quoted a military official as saying. The newspaper, citing three officials who had seen the document, said the strategy would maintain that the existing international rules of armed conflict — embodied in treaties and customs — would apply in cyberspace.

While refusing to discuss potential cyber adversaries, officials told WSJ the previous hacking attacks on strategic US offices had originated from Malaysia and China.

Based on ‘equivalence’

The report said the Pentagon would likely decide whether to respond militarily to cyber attacks based on the notion of “equivalence” — whether the attack was comparable in damage to a conventional military strike. Such a decision would also depend on whether the precise source of the attack could be determined.

The decision to formalise the rules of cyber war comes after the Stuxnet attack last year ravaged Iran’s nuclear programme. That attack was blamed on the United States and Israel, both of which declined to comment on it.

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