U.S. NEEDS TOP-LEVEL APPROVAL TO LAUNCH CYBERATTACKS

Washington Times on April 25, 2012, published an AP report on the United States using cyberweapons against an adversary’s computer networks only after those at the highest levels of government approved of the operation because of the risks of collateral damage, a senior U.S. military official said this week. Excerpts below:

The director of intelligence at U.S. Cyber Command, Navy Rear Adm. Samuel J. Cox, said cyberattacks can do significant harm to a country’s infrastructure and never should be carried out in a cavalier manner.

Offensive cyberoperations are difficult to conduct with enough precision to avoid unintended casualties and damage to unrelated systems, he said.

“If you’re trying to do precision strike in cyberspace with a very high degree of confidence,” Adm. Cox said, “that takes enormous amounts of intelligence, planning, great care and very carefully crafted cybertools that won’t boomerang against you down the road.”

Cyber Command is in charge of defending U.S. military networks from attacks and intrusions. The command’s top officer, Army Gen. Keith B. Alexander, also is the director of the secretive National Security Agency, which gathers electronic intelligence from foreign governments.

Both NSA and Cyber Command are headquartered at Fort Meade, Md.

The Defense Department is developing rules of engagement for how commanders will operate in cyberspace and what missions they can conduct under their own authority.

The House of Representatives on the 26th will consider legislation to better defend critical U.S. industries and corporate networks from electronic attacks and intrusions by foreign governments, cybercriminals and terrorist groups. However, there are deep divisions over how best to accomplish the goal.

The Obama administration officials and security experts say companies that operate power plants, communication systems, chemical facilities and other such entities should have to meet basic performance standards to prove they can withstand cyberattacks or recover quickly from them.

There is broad agreement, though, on the need for the private sector and government to share information about hackers and the techniques they use to control the inner workings of corporate networks. With a system to securely exchange information, there is a much better chance of blocking cyberattacks and the theft of proprietary information.

Rep. Mike Rogers, Michigan Republican and chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, and Rep. C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger of Maryland, the panel’s top Democrat, said on the 24th that they had worked out several amendments to their information-sharing bill to address privacy concerns and to clarify parts of the legislation.

Lawmakers will offer the amendments when the House considers the bill later this week. Mr. Rogers said he clearly has the votes to pass the overall measure

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