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Cyberattacks May Also Be Acts of War

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WASHINGTON, June 1, 2011 - Cyberwar is war and the United States will treat it as such, reported The Wall Street Journal on Tuesday.

"If you shut down our power grid, maybe we will put a missile down one of your smokestacks," said an unnamed military official, according to the report.

The report comes days ahead of the release of the Pentagon’s first formal cyber strategy. According to Defense officials who have read the report, The Laws of Armed Conflict apply in cyberspace as in traditional war. A 12-page unclassified version will soon be available to the public sometime in June.

The President’s National Security Strategy lists the use of force as an option in the event of a cyber attack. Deterrence is one of the goals of the warning, but the Pentagon also invokes a doctrine of ‘equivalence’ in its justification.

"A cyber attack is governed by basically the same rules as any other kind of attack if the effects of it are essentially the same," said Charles Dunlap, a retired Air Force Major General and professor at Duke University law school.

If a cyber attack shuts down commerce, for example, it will be viewed in the same manner as a naval blockade.

The warning comes in the wake of a major attack on Lockheed Martin’s computer systems on May 21. Also, last week on Wednesday, a Chinese military spokesman admitted to the existence of a cyberwarfare unit.

Josh Peterson is a DC-based journalist with a professional writing portfolio that includes work on US foreign policy and international affairs, telecom policy and cyber security, religion, arts, and music. He is currently a journalism intern at The National Journalism Center in Washington, D.C. and a former tech and social media intern at The Allan P. Kirby, Jr. Center for Constitutional Studies & Citizenship. Peterson received his Bachelor of Arts in philosophy and religion with a minor concentration in music from Hillsdale College in 2008. When he is not writing, Peterson lives a double life as a web designer, social media strategist, photographer, musician and mixed martial artist.

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