President Obama signed an executive order outlining the rules of engagement for military commanders in cyber attacks, reports the Associated Press. The executive order was signed over a month ago, and a comprehensive Pentagon cyber strategy is expected to be released shortly.
The executive order outlines areas of responsibility, and specifically when presidential authority must be obtained for a cyber assault. The report emphasizes the shifting military landscape, with cyber now a domain of warfare and cyber attacks an increasingly relevant component of military operations. Most experts and defense officials agree that cyber war is a big aspect of the defense and intelligence community’s future, and maintaining strong offensive and defensive capabilities is critical.
“I’ve often said that there’s a strong likelihood that the next Pearl Harbor that we confront could very well be a cyberattack that cripples our power systems, our grid, our security systems, our financial systems, our governmental systems,” said incoming defense secretary Leon Panetta.
The issue of boundaries and taking down computer attacks at the source is an issue in cyber intrusions, which often involve hacking into outside networks or computers in locations that may be outside of the attacking country. The AP reports that the Pentagon’s soon-to-be-released guidelines will allow the U.S. to both block cyber intrusions and knock out servers and computer systems in other countries.
As the Pentagon gears up its cyber strategy, the Government Accountability Office is already offering a critical assessment of U.S. Cyber Command. The report calls on Cybercom to beef up its cybersecurity staff, and says that it needs to better clarify the roles and responsibilities of its workers. Cybercom has already said people are its main focus, and investing in experts with the necessary skills are critical. Launched in just 2009, it has had to quickly hire staff and prepare to take on an increasingly heavy volume of cyber threats and intrusions.