Pentagon Creating “Rules of Engagement” for Responding to Advanced Attackers

In a sign that we are truly entering into a new era where advanced attackers are increasing efforts to steal our nation's intellectual property, the Pentagon is putting the finishing touches on new rules of engagement when it comes to responding to cyber-attacks.

USA Today recently ran a story about this new framework for effective cyber response, and Richard Bejtlich, chief security officer at Mandiant, was quoted in the piece. The recent Mandiant APT1 report sheds light on the issues of attacks from other countries, particularly China and one of their espionage units. Richard discusses how we've put the world on notice that the U.S. will actively respond to attacks against private companies.

Below is a significant portion of the article.

The Pentagon is putting the finishing touches on rules that will give military commanders clearer authority if they have to respond to an enemy cyber-attack, military officials and cyber-security experts say.

Defense Department officials have started talking more openly about offensive cyber-capabilities, including the creation of 13 teams capable of offensive operations if the United States is attacked.

"This is all putting the world on notice, particularly the Chinese, that we're tired of them breaking into private companies," said Richard Bejtlich, chief security officer at Mandiant, a computer security company.

The so-called rules of engagement will "provide a defined framework for how best to respond to the plethora of cyber-threats we face," said Lt. Col. Damien Pickart, a Pentagon spokesman.

The rules will be secret and cover more conventional combat as well.

The cyber-warfare rules are the most contentious because it is a new domain.

"The technologies and capabilities are developing so rapidly that sometimes policies have to catch up," said Terry Roberts, a vice president at TASC, an engineering services company that works with the intelligence community and the Defense Department.

The Pentagon said the military has existing rules that allow it to defend the nation, but analysts say the new rules will give military commanders clearer guidance and make it easier to take action without clearing it at the presidential level.

The need to create a new set of rules reflects how muddled the cyber-world is. Even what constitutes an act of war is difficult to determine.

Gen. Keith Alexander, head of Cyber-Command, said recently the bulk of cyber-attacks are espionage and commercial theft, not an act of war. "If the intent is to disrupt or destroy our infrastructure, I think you've crossed a line," he said.

NATO is struggling with similar issues. A new NATO report that attempts to apply international law to cyber-warfare concludes that a state can retaliate in a proportional way against a country that attacks it.

Want to read more? Check out the full article here.