Over the past two months the President and the U.S. military have been in discussions or negotiations that have resulted in multiple Executive Orders that frame offensive military operations in cyber space. Media outlets are now reporting that President Barack Obama more than a month ago signed executive orders that detail how the military may weave cyber capabilities into U.S. war fighting strategy.
The cyber warfare executive orders are said to lay out how and under what circumstances the U.S. military can use offensive cyber capabilities against our adversaries, as well as how cyber weapons can be used to collect intelligence against other countries. These orders are the culmination of efforts over the past two years. A few weeks ago multiple articles and blog postings about our cyber warfare strategy reported that the United States could respond to a cyber attack with real-life military retaliation – taking a bits and bytes gets bombs and bullets approach. The strategy coincides with comments like one attributed to a U.S. military official in a recent Wall Street Journal article, who suggested, “If you shut down our power grid, maybe we will put a missile down one of your smokestacks.”
The Pentagon has still not released the strategy, but officials, including Deputy Secretary William Lynn, in recent speeches have suggested a variety of tactics that might include, for instance, transmitting computer code to another country’s network to map out paths of potential offensive cyber attacks, if approved by the President.
With all the notable cyber attacks on U.S. defense contractors and information identified above, the timing of these orders is most interesting.
We have entered into a new era of warfare with the cyber domain the most recent addition to the land, sea, air and space domains of conflict. Is a cyber war just a mouse-click away?