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US military has given more authority to launch preventative cyberattacks

The US military is taking a more aggressive stance against foreign government hackers who are targeting the US and is being granted more authority to launch preventative cyberstrikes, according to a summary of the Department of Defense’s new Cyber Strategy.

The Pentagon is referring to the new stance as “defend forward,” and the strategy will allow the US military “to disrupt or halt malicious cyber activity at its source, including activity that falls below the level of armed conflict.”

The new military strategy, signed by Defense Secretary James Mattis, also emphasizes an intention to “build a more lethal force” of first-strike hackers.

The “defend forward” initiative wasn’t included in the 2015 strategy and further enables the United States to carry out offensive hacking operations to defend against cyberattacks on critical US infrastructure, such as election systems and the energy grid.

In effect, it gives the US military more authority to act on its own — even against computer networks based in friendly countries.

Normally, one nation’s hackers will establish a computer network in a second country before launching an attack on a third country. For example, Russia might use computers in Germany to attack the United States.

Until recently, if the US National Security Agency observed Russian hackers building a computer network in a Western European country, the president’s National Security Council would need to weigh in before any action is taken.      Continue Reading