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Pentagon Adds Cyber-Tools to List of Warfare Options

A few months ago we noted, approvingly, a Vanity Fair article that referred to the Stuxnet worm as "something new under the sun." Author Michael Joseph Gross argued that something previously theoretical had been unleashed and was changing future geo-political calculations.

Evidence supporting Gross' view comes this week in a Washington Post article that asserts that cyber-technologies have been integrated into the formal structure of approved capabilities at the Pentagon in the last few months.

"So whether it's a tank, an M-16 or a computer virus, it's going to follow the same rules so that we can understand how to employ it, when you can use it, when you can't, what you can and can't use," the Post quoted an unnamed senior military official as saying.

According to the Post, the framework covers penetrating foreign computer networks and leaving a cyber-virus that can be activated later (think Stuxnet), studying the cyber-capabilities of adversaries, examining how power plants or other networks operate and leaving beacons for later targeting by viruses, among other things. Some methods require presidential approval, others don't. The framework also apparently makes clear that the Pentagon can respond to cyber-attacks with bullets and bombs, according to the Post.

Take it as one more sign of the maturing status of cyber-tools in the arsenal of the modern nation state.

Posted by Scott Bekker on June 02, 2011 at 11:58 AM