The Pentagon has concluded that computer sabotage coming from another country can constitute an act of war, a finding that for the first time opens the door for the U.S. to respond using traditional military force.
…In part, the Pentagon intends its plan as a warning to potential adversaries of the consequences of attacking the U.S. in this way. “If you shut down our power grid, maybe we will put a missile down one of your smokestacks,” said a military official.
In other words, the Pentagon has declared that the Iranian regime has the right to attack the United States with missiles. At least, that’s the principle being laid down by this announcement. Cyber attacks have been an official policy, as far as we can gather, of the United States towards Iran for some time. No military response is even worried about from Iranians – they don’t have that prerogative. We, on the other hand, rule the world. And rules that apply to others simply don’t apply to us.
It’s a dangerous iteration of war policy to declare that if some foreign government hacks into a power grid in the U.S., they will suffer death and destruction. First of all, there are serious questions of proportionality consider. Murdering people from the sky is not warranted by a power outage.
Furthermore, the Pentagon has said that the United States will not distinguish between governments who aim cyber attacks at us and rogue individual hackers from some other country who commit such an act. The Pentagon will hold the government of whatever country such an attack comes from responsible regardless of who actually committed it. Among the ominous potential unintended consequences to come from this policy is that it could very well become a justification for government control of the internet in all kinds of countries. If governments want to protect their sovereignty, freedom of access to the open world wide web seems too risky as per this policy.