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Response to Cyberattacks May Mean New Roles and Missions for Special Ops

by Insider Jun 11, 2021
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Response to Cyberattacks May Mean New Roles and Missions for Special Ops

SolarWinds. Colonial Pipeline. New York City’s subway. These are only some of the targets of cyberattacks on the U.S. government and private sector in recent months.

Although damage from these mostly unattributed cyberattacks — Russia and China are suspected — varies, private citizens have started feeling the impact in their daily lives, as shown by the gas shortage after the Colonial Pipeline cyberattack.

In light of these cyberattacks, the U.S. government is pondering a more aggressive strategy, even starting to give ransomware investigations the same attention as terrorism cases.

Meanwhile, NATO’s secretary-general said a cyberattack against a member could meet “the thresholds for triggering Article 5,” the alliance’s collective defense clause.

British navy Queen Elizabeth aircraft carrier Jens Stoltenberg
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg visits Royal Navy aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth during exercise Steadfast Defender 21. (NATO)

In military parlance, the U.S. government must figure out how it can “threaten to impose unacceptable costs” by, with, and through persistent physical and virtual engagement.

Although the Geneva Conventions and Tallin Accords offer some guidance, they are by no means definite. There is also the issue of attribution. If Russia, for example, used a criminal group as proxy, the U.S. would have to verify Moscow’s role before responding.

That response also has to deal with questions of proportionality.

Would halting Moscow’s subway be a proportionate response to election interference? Would publishing the personal information of Chinese intelligence officers be a proportionate response to the theft of classified personal information of millions of U.S. government employees and troops?

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