Cyber Command's chief, Gen. Keith B. Alexander, who also heads the National Security Agency, wants sufficient maneuvering room for his new command to mount what he has called "the full spectrum" of operations in cyberspace.I would hope that "senior policymakers and administration lawyers want to limit the military's offensive computer operations to war zones". While some might argue, as does one former National Security Agency (NSA), below, that cyber attacks are going on all the time and thus no big deal, I think it is just the opposite. For any government to attack the vital computers of another nation (say Viet-nam attacking Chinese computers) would be seen as a hostile act. Where that hostile act would lead would depend on a number of factors, but it could lead to overt combat hostilities with lethal weapons.
Offensive actions could include shutting down part of an opponent's computer network to preempt a cyber-attack against a U.S. target or changing a line of code in an adversary's computer to render malicious software harmless. They are operations that destroy, disrupt or degrade targeted computers or networks.
But current and former officials say that senior policymakers and administration lawyers want to limit the military's offensive computer operations to war zones such as Afghanistan, in part because the CIA argues that covert operations outside the battle zone are its responsibility and the State Department is concerned about diplomatic backlash.
When hackers attack your computer they are show boating. When a government does it, or a commercial enterprise, they are doing it for an advantage. It could be a small advantage, or short term advantage, but it is an advantage. During the OVERLORD Operation in June of 1944 the Allies put up a major electronic spoofing operation against the Germans in the Pas-de-Calais area of France—part of Operation FORTITUDE. It worked. It fooled Hitler. It bought time.
The good news is that:
Senior defense officials are now inclined to "stay conservative" in line with the draft opinion, one senior military official said. He said it is probable that policymakers will have Cyber Command propose specific operations in order to test the boundary lines.On the other hand, we have this toward the end of the article:
Stewart A. Baker, a former NSA general counsel, said calling cyber-operations, such as dismantling terrorist Web sites, "covert action" incorrectly implies they carry the same risks.Maybe. One thing we have to consider is that to attack the computers of others is inherently an offensive action, even if done for defensive purposes. There is a lot we don't yet know about this kind of thing Until we do there will be the lure of being able to achieve great ends without having to exert a lot of means or fear a lot of retribution. That would be a deception, self-inflicted though it may be.
"There are lots of hackers in lots of countries who regularly break into computers, regularly disguise their identities," he said. "No one would think that discovering the U.S. had done that would lead to a scandal comparable to . . . the funding of Nicaraguan contras with secret Iranian arms sales, which are the kind of activities the covert action law was written for."
Regards — Cliff