There have been many warnings from well-placed sources about the vulnerability of the USA to cyberattacks against our key infrastructure, governmental and military websites and computer-related systems. I think the vast majority of Americans do not appreciate how dependent we are on computer-based technology to make our civilization work, and how vulnerable this technology is to cyberattack.

The Director of the US National Security Agency said “the US must fire back against cyber attacks swiftly and strongly and should act to counter or disable a threat even when the identity of the attacker is unknown.” That sounds like simple common sense to me, but the article details some convoluted philosophical thinking about whether it is acceptable to fire back against a cyber attack against the USA. It even considers a rather wimpy sounding alternative about whether the US “should first ask another government to deal with a cyber attack that came from within its borders.” That sounds like more of the “speak softly and carry a wet noodle” attitude toward national defense. If our nation is victimized by a cyberattack and we know what nation the attack came from, our side should immediately attempt to shut down every computer system in the nation hosting the attack! Why do we need to ask permission to fight back?

The link notes that already “US computer networks are under constant attack,” and it cites North Korea and Iran as possible nations which could host a cyberattack against the USA. However, there have been numerous media articles that China and Russia pose the greatest cyberwarfare threat and that China especially mounts large-scale cyberattacks against key US computer infrastructures.  Of course, the more that China, Russia or whatever nation probes US computer systems with cyberattacks, American defenders are learning more about enemy tactics, methods of operations, how they route attacks through third-party nations or non-state entities, etc.

The link states that the USA’s “ability to protect its networks and launch counterattacks…is shrouded in secrecy.” That is surely true. I’ll offer my guess as to the state of the USA’s ability to launch cyberattacks against other nations. The nation that invented the internet (and controls many internet routing nodes) is likely to have better offensive cyberattack capabilities than other nations realize. Many in the USA’s military have also read the Chinese book, The Art of War, by Sun Tzu. If I recall correctly, one of the key tenets of that ancient Chinese book is: “When you are strong, feign weakness.” It is my personal opinion that the US military is applying that very principle in its cyberwarfare strategies.