back to article Pentagon: Hack attacks can be act of war

For the first time, the Pentagon has formally concluded that computer sabotage carried out by another nation can constitute an act of war that warrants a response of traditional military force, according to published media reports. The determination, included in the Pentagon's first ever “formal cyber strategy,” represents an …


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  1. Leo Davidson

    Goose meet gander

    So, presumably, if the same rules apply to both "them" and "us", if Iran could prove who was behind the Stuxnet attack on its nuclear reactor then it would be okay for them to blow up a power station in the responsible country or countries?

    I'm guessing that would be condemned by the USA, even though they are advocating the same response for themselves.

    1. Notas Badoff

      Foie gras anyone?

      Hello, not reactors (as in boom) but centrifuges (as in "no boom for you!"). Please sort your categories lest you take a rebuke as a mortal insult, and mis-escalate.

      Tit-for-tat here would be sand in the USians coke, in reply to sand in Iran's cake makers, yes?

      1. Paul 129

        @Foie gras

        And where the hell do you site those enrichment facilities? (The ones used soely for power generation B-)

        1. ElReg!comments!Pierre Silver badge

          @ Paul 129

          "@Foie gras

          And where the hell do you site those enrichment facilities?"


          See, "rich" food, like Foie Gras, is enriched in so-salled "enrichment facilities" where the are put in huge centrifuges, a bit like how Uranium is prepared for the nuclear plants: the energy-rich Uranium bits (or foie gras chunks) are projected outside the centrifuge while the "poorer", lighter elements (or meager liver bits) stay near the centre.

          That is why the USA enforced a quasi-embargo on French foie gras at the "war on Iraq" time; it wasn't that they were pissed off by the Frenchies' refusal to join in, but because they feared that France could sell foie-gras enrichment centrifuge to Iran for them to use on Uranium ore to make bombs.


  2. Marketing Hack Silver badge

    In general, I agree.

    It's hard NOT to argue that a cyber-attack that takes down the electric grid is not equivalent to bombing a substation or power plant. However, you are going to need to prove involvement and intent. Thats easy to do if a big jet fighter sweeps in and bombs your substation, but if a cyber-attack comes from country X, that doesnt mean that the government of X is involved.

  3. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
    Big Brother

    If you put a missile down our smokestack...

    ....maybe we will blow up a few of your fatsos.

    Seriously though, does the agressive stupid never end?

    Better have those nukes ready just in case they didn't invest in a firewall or decide to start yet another false flag operation - this time literally at the push of button.

    At least they will think twice before transforming your streets into DU avenue.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Seems reasonable - up to a point

    However it is done, an attack is an attack. If they determine that an event is truly an attack on the US then a military response can be appropriate. It is necessary, though, to be sure that an attack has been initiated by an actual state (ie government-commanded) - otherwise they risk being spoofed into starting a real shooting war with an innocent party. I would not leave the judgement of guilt to military commanders : it needs to come from cyber intelligence (if there is such a thing).

  5. mr-tom

    But, but, but...

    Surely that would mean that since they allegedly were / might have been the source of the worm attacks on Iran's nuclear programme, they are therefore at war with Iran.

    Own petard, hoist upon?

  6. Anonymous Coward

    I didn't know they had a sense of humour....

    "commanders would have to present indisputable evidence that a particular country was behind a specific incident"

    so, like Afghanistan and Iraq then?

  7. Graham Marsden

    China's Blue Army...?

    What? They're Pompey supporters?

  8. Elmer Phud Silver badge

    Face-off Book

    "Oi, Are you poking me? Any more of that and I'll unfriend you!"

  9. jubtastic1

    Can of worms

    They are opening there, Still, at least we know the theme of the next bond movie, supervillan/dictator manipulates first world into pounding neighbouring country into stone age, ..., Profit etc

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    So presumably under the new "rules of engagement", unilateral black ops into foriegn airspace to assassinate / "judge" some socially deficiant hax0r in front of his mum is a totally appropriate response...

    Then the seals could make up some really exicting story "he's coming right for us, jimbo"

    or claim he was about to press a big red button or something. Medals of bravery for everyone! The president could watch remotely and do the concerned face (like Joey from friends, in the famous episode; "the one that was a bit shit"). Then the mission would be turned into the most farcical one sided COD mission ever. Then the mission would be analysed in great detail, with revelations about the use of military mutated chiwawas with stun guns, adamantine teeth and a usb3 port.

    Then it would be revealed that the haxx0r was sitting in his pants no where near a red button.

    Then an amusing Irish writer would claim the protagonist was a fan of his sitcom... and he'd probably be right..

    1. Cunningly Linguistic

      Can I just point out...

      ...that said Irish writer didn't claim as such. He was told by other people (on Twitter) who had seen the video. At the time he was very confused over whether OBL did view his show. At no time did he actually announce it, or claim it.

      1. Anonymous Coward


        the whole thing was a rouse, he admitted to suggesting "other people have told me that...." when nobody had :)

        How to start a rumour 101.

    2. MarkieMark1


      the porn stash

  11. Captain Thyratron

    Not really a change in policy.

    Really, they are just stating the obvious in slightly updated language: Sabotage of infrastructure is an act of war like it always was. Presumably, theft of strategically sensitive information is also an act of war (like it always was).

    1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

      Theft of strategically sensitive information an act of war?

      So missiles are currently raining onto Tel Aviv?

      As for "sabotage of infrastructure", I eagerly await the international approval when Iran finally decides that enough is enough and transforms a few kilometer square of Israel or the US into powdered, submunition-infested territory.

  12. godanov


    A widely known but unacknowledged stance. The US has not overtly stated this policy, it is not any kind of change. This is a direct statement to China and its bitch North Korea. This is the responce to China thretening the US with war if they attck Pakistan. It is as clear as if they had used Western Union.

    BUT OUT.

    1. ElReg!comments!Pierre Silver badge

      China? Really?

      And who, pray tell, will make the Magical And Revolutionnary stuff, if a missile gets sent down their smokestack?

      I think the threat is aimed more at the likes of Lybia and Egypt. And in any case that's probably no outwardly-aimed threat, just some spadework for the domestic opinion to justify future gratuitous bombing of civilians to "conquer" new markets and "secure" new ressources (a bit like that WMD thing).

  13. Pascal Monett Silver badge

    What else is new ?

    It's the USA, people. If they want to bomb you back to the Stone Age, well, they've already proven that Geneva Convention means nothing to them, so this is but another excuse in the list.

    And I'm sure that all proof needed will be treated with as much due process as the WMDs in Iraq.

    What a farce.

  14. Christoph Silver badge

    Lots of fun and games

    Don't bother any more with that old trick of fake phone calls to get some innocent family hit by a SWAT team. Now you can try to be the first of your friends to fake a cyber attack and get an innocent country bombed!

    Are you a country that's having problems with a neighbouring country? Pull a Joe job on them and the USA will take care of them for you.

    Rebellious teen who doesn't like the authorities? Run an attack from your country, but make it look official.

  15. FozzyBear Silver badge

    Is military action really necessary

    Can't they achieve the same level of destruction by just calling in Bruce Willis as John McClane


  16. henrydddd
    Thumb Down

    war monging

    Modern day Sparta (the United States) seems to be looking for any excuse to start a war with any nation over any reason. The Military Industrial complex must be fed. Even though the US Military budget is greater than the sum of the next 10 highest spending nations (not including our never ending war against Afghanistan) and the US debt is going through the roof; the US must find new meat to destroy

    1. foo_bar_baz

      I dont think it's "even though"

      It's more like "because". Things go badly -> start a war. Going to war is the USA's answer to problems, whether they are internal or external.

      1. sisk Silver badge

        Not for long

        Our leaders may think war is all well and good, but 'we the people' are getting damn sick of it. Admittedly it may just be in my area, but I think war-weariness was a major factor in Obama's election. I know that several normally hard-line Republicans I know refused to vote for McCaine because they knew he'd just keep the wars going.

    2. John F***ing Stepp

      War Munging.

      MUNG until no good.

      Beans, and such.

  17. ElReg!comments!Pierre Silver badge

    Pentagon, meet LART

    So now we have proof that the "Falcons" read the works of Simon T.; took them quite some time to catch up, too...

  18. Rombizio

    Like George Carlin once said...

    "To live is to get a free ticket for the freak show. To live in US is to get a sit on the first row. "

    It is so sad to see how they became distorted and twisted shadows of what we use to call human beings.

  19. Graham Bartlett

    "Equivalence" is nothing new

    That's the principle behind the category "weapons of mass destruction". The military orthodoxy was (and still is) "response in kind". The US decided not to develop biological and chemical weapons, probably because they weren't sufficiently useful militarily and also because they were so far ahead on the nuke front. But the principle of WMD is "a nuke is a gas attack is germ warfare", so any of those justify a nuclear response.

    As has previously been said, this is just another flavour of sabotage. All this is doing is formalising something which honestly is just common sense.

    Of course, leaving loopholes for hackers to do this to your infrastructure is downright stupid.

  20. Anonymous Coward


    Do you think WE like it?

    US Politicians have become the ruling class here, they have no fear of repercussions of their actions and reactions, and as long as they get what they consider 'theirs' - they could give a flying fuck.

    We're out of money, owned by China, and getting deeper as every day goes by. Look at our headlines, Memorial day was a farce - people acting like damn fools at our beaches and waterparks, with the Great Leader out playing golf. Every day there is more evidence of people getting out of hand - BEST part is that they think they are entitled or have the right to do so.

    Critique this blurb and consider that this is the kind of stuff we hear/read everyday.

    "Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D.-Fla.), chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee, denounced Republicans last week for believing illegal immigration “should in fact be a crime.” "

    Wow, just wow. Your brain tends to start hurting after trying to comprehend wtf they are doing in DC.

    I'd build a bunker if I could afford it. Anon, because our Dear Leader has a internet team looking for stuff like this and I'm not going to make it easy for them. (but find me they will if they decide to - no Seal Team Six, just the local Fed SWAT team). Sucks, eh?

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    UK hacker to duck and cover

    Hope this doesn't mean a tactical nuclear strike on our Gary...

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Screaming Fist

    I await Bill Gibson's copyright infringement suit with interest.

  23. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I bet Israeli ears just pricked up.

    Cue Mossad attacking the USA from inside Palestine.

  24. Miek


    So America is going to go steaming into China and Russia is it ? Unlikely

    1. Anonymous Coward

      first thing that popped into my mind too

      I thought exactly the same. All we need now is one load of misguided believers in their own superstition start an attack on other misguided believers of different superstition and boom goes the dynamite.

      Can imagine the pentagon conversations.

      "It was THIS IP address sir. We can prove it but we need to act now with shock and awe to prevent further ping scans, exposing our vulnerabilities.."

      "Quick somebody fire up the mainframe, this is going to get messy".

      I wonder if this means that all pen-testing outfits need to get registered as potential mercenaries...

      Whole can of fail.

  25. Anonymous Coward

    With all due respect...

    That's McKinnon fucked then!

    No doubt they will twist his little "miscalculation" into a an act of war and ensure that Gary and indeed any UK citizen caught using anything other than Windows, Word and Excel on their PC, will be on the next plane to Gitmo!

  26. This post has been deleted by its author


    222 Regent Street?

    Dear Mr. Obama

    Does this also apply to acts of computer sabotage by Phorm?

    The co-ordinates for the ICBM sat nav are: 51.513717° -0.140846°, and the missiles would need to enter the building through second floor windows.


    Yours faithfully.

  28. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    hacks to sensitive systems

    Hacks to sensitive systems would be one of:

    1. Theft

    2. Treason

    3. Espionage

    4. WAR

    A foreign government attacking would be an act of WAR and should be met with VIOLENCE in the extreme.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Ah capslock, forthhence known as "the mental button".

      In my school, there was a big dopey hall monitor who'd overreact to any given situation, thinking it would deter future teasing.

      It had precisely the opposite effect.

      Psychology 101.

    2. Red Bren
      Black Helicopters

      Acts of WAR!!!111eleventymillion!!!

      Failure to adequately secure sensitive systems to stop any Tom, Dick or Gary McKinnon would be one of

      1. Stupidity

      2. False economics

      3. TREASON

      Any government attacking another country's systems would be an act of war. That includes the US hacking the "bad guys"

  29. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton

    To a hammer...

    So military train gravy advocates self-enriching military reponse.

    Who would have thought?

    No blinders or dim-wit or D'oh or No Shit or I'll take me coat icon, so.... (now why do I need excuses?)

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