Pentagon: All options on table in cyber-attack

13:43, June 01, 2011      

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The Pentagon said that it would consider all options if the United States were hit by a cyber attack, the Agency France Presse reported on Wednesday.

The Obama administration has been formalizing rules on cyberspace amid growing concern about the reach of hackers. US major defence contractor Lockheed Martin said it repelled a major cyber-assault a week ago, the AFP report said.

The White House on May 16 unveiled an international strategy statement on cyber-security which said the US government "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," the strategy statement said.

Pentagon spokesman Colonel Dave Lapan said on Tuesday that the White House policy did not rule out a military response to a cyber-attack.

Lapan said that the Pentagon was drawing up an accompanying cyber defence strategy which would be ready in two to three weeks.

The Wall Street Journal, citing three officials who said they had seen the document, reported Tuesday that the strategy would classify major cyber-attacks as acts of war, paving the way for possible military retaliation.

The newspaper said that the strategy was intended in part as a warning to foes that may try to sabotage the US electricity grid, subways or pipelines.

"If you shut down our power grid, maybe we will put a missile down one of your smokestacks," the newspaper quoted a military official as saying.

In cyber-warfare, aggressors are often mysterious and hence would not fear immediate retaliation -- a key difference from traditional warfare, in which the fear of one's own destruction is considered a deterrent, according to the AFP report.

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