President can order preemptive cyberattacks if needed

Secret review shows executive office has broad power to act in cyber emergency

By , Computerworld |  Security, cyberattacks, cybersecurity

Together, the moves constitute a broad ranging effort by the government to come up with a strategic policy for dealing with online threats. The U.S. is already regarded as having a fairly aggressive posture in cyberspace. The Stuxnet attacks in 2010 that temporarily took out nearly one-fifth of the 5,000 centrifuges that Iran had operating at the Natanz nuclear facility for example is believed to be one example of a pre-emptive strike that has already taken place.

Though the U.S. government has never officially conceded to its role in the attack many with the government have anonymously admitted to its involvement in creating and deploying Stuxnet.

While many see the moves as vital to protecting American interests in cyberspace, others worry that the efforts at building an offensive capability are misdirected.

"Indeed, the Obama Administration has been so intent on responding to the cyber threat with martial aggression that it hasn't paused to consider the true nature of the threat," wrote Thomas Rid, a Reader in War Studies at King's College in London and a non-resident fellow at the School for Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University.

"And that has lead to two crucial mistakes: first, failing to realize (or choosing to ignore) that offensive capabilities in cyber security don't translate easily into defensive capabilities. And second, failing to realize (or choosing to ignore) that it is far more urgent for the United States to concentrate on developing the latter, rather than the former," Rid wrote.

It is a position shared by others. "It does seem as though the U.S. is ramping up its offensive capabilities a hell of a lot more than preparing for defensive resiliency," wrote Daniel Drezner, a professor of international politics at Tufts University in a blog post Monday. "In an arena populated by non-state actors and quasi-non-state actors, defense would seem to me to be a far more important concern."p>

Jaikumar Vijayan covers data security and privacy issues, financial services security and e-voting for Computerworld. Follow Jaikumar on Twitter at @jaivijayan or subscribe to Jaikumar's RSS feed. His e-mail address is jvijayan@computerworld.com.

See more by Jaikumar Vijayan on Computerworld.com.


Originally published on Computerworld |  Click here to read the original story.
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