Pentagon leaders are still working to determine when, exactly, a cyber-attack against the U.S. would constitute an act of war, and when, exactly, the Defense Department would respond to a cyber-attack on civilian infrastructure, a senior Defense Department official told lawmakers on Wednesday.
A cyber strike as an act of war “has not been defined,” Acting Assistant Secretary of Defense for Homeland Defense and Global Security Thomas Atkin told the House Armed Services Committee. “We’re still working toward that definition.”
The White House and Pentagon let it be known in 2011 that acts such as shutting down the U.S. power grid via a cyber-attack could be seen as an act of war that would bring not only a cyber-response but perhaps”a missile down one of your smokestacks,” a DoD official said at the time.
That bit of colorful language was not included inthe final, published strategy, which did state that: “When warranted, the United States will respond to hostile acts in cyberspace as we would to any other threat to our country. We reserve the right to use all necessary means — diplomatic, informational, military, and economic — as appropriate and consistent with applicable international law, in order to defend our Nation, our allies, our partners, and our interests.”