For one day, at least, you can call off the cyberwar. The Pentagon revealed an unclassified version of its “Strategy for Operating in Cyberspace.” And despite a drumbeat of scare talk and digital sabre-rattling in Washington, the document takes a measured, reasonable approach — focusing on good network hygiene and data-sharing, rather than bombing hackers into submission.
The question is whether this public summary conveys what’s actually in the classified strategy, or reflects the real mood of the Department of Defense.
“DoD would like to be much more aggressive in what it says and how it
acts,” says a source familiar with the development of the strategy.
“But that tendency to be aggressive has been reined in by the State
Department, Treasury, and the White House, and not in an unreasonable
Listen to the talk inside the Washington Beltway — and especially within the Pentagon — and you’d think hackers were about to reach their hands through our computers, and strangle us all in our sleep.
“The United States is fighting a cyber-war today, and we are losing,” retired admiral and former National Security Agency chief Mike McConnell wrote in the Washington Post last year. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta claimed cyber attacks could be the “next Pearl Harbor we confront.” Or perhaps the next Hiroshima. Senator Carl Levin declared that “cyberweapons and cyberattacks potentially can be devastating, approaching weapons of mass destruction in their effects” during an April 2010 (.pdf) hearing.