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­.s. Military Cyberwar: What's Off-Limits?

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Michael Hayden at Black Hat

Michael Hayden, ex-CIA and NSA director, suggests some foreign nations' systems should be off-limits in cyberwar.

Declan McCullagh / CNET

The United States should decide on rules for attacking other nations' networks in advance of an actual cyberwar, which could include an international agreement not to disable banks and electrical grids, the former head of the CIA and National Security Agency said Thursday.

Michael Hayden, who was the principal deputy director of national intelligence and retired last year, said the rules of engagement for electronic battlefields are still too murky, even after the Defense Department created the U.S. Cyber Command last spring. The new organization is charged with allowing the U.S. armed forces to conduct "full-spectrum military cyberspace operations in order to enable actions in all domains," which includes destroying electronic infrastructure as thoroughly as a B-2 bomber would level a power plant.

Even a formal cyberwar may have rules different from those applying to traditional warfare, Hayden suggested. One option would be for the larger G8 or G20 nations to declare that "cyberpenetration of any (financial) grid is so harmful to the international financial system that this is like chemical weapons: none of us should use them," he said at the Black Hat computer security conference here.

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