Obama has signed Presidential Order Number 20 and made an important change to the way the US will respond to attacks on National Security structures via the web, according to Ellen Nakashima of the Washington Post.
Nakashima reports that that the directive had been signed back in October, but he new cyber security defense capabilities are secret, and they can't be accessed.
Crucially the new rules seem to allow for far more pre-emptive action. From the WaPo report:
“What it does, really for the first time, is it explicitly talks about how we will use cyber operations,” a senior administration official said. “Network defense is what you’re doing inside your own networks. . . . Cyber operations is stuff outside that space, and recognizing that you could be doing that for what might be called defensive purposes.”
In theory, this means that if you attempt a denial of service attack on a government website, you're computer might suddenly shut down. The new directive gives commanders the right, according to rules of engagement as yet finalized (and most certainly classified), to take preemptive action against hackers.
According to Wapo, the preemptive attacks could even "include a cyberattack that wipes data from tens of thousands of computers in a major industrial company, disrupting business operations, but doesn’t blow up a plant or kill people."
With that basis, the cyber-defense may not be limited to private hackers, they may well include the military industrial complex of other nations.
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