Report: DOD needs cyberattack authority

The Pentagon should consider changes to policies that currently prohibit the Defense Department from mounting a counter cyberattack if its computers are attacked, the National Research Council recommended in a report released today.

In its report on DOD command and control systems and policies, the NRC said existing laws and policies prohibit DOD from "taking retaliatory action against a hacker in peacetime" and put "responsibility for apprehending and prosecuting a hacker in the hands of civilian law enforcement agencies."

This results in a "passive defense posture," the NRC report said, "determined to fail against a determined hacker...because adversaries pay no price for unsuccessful attacks and make reported attempts to breach systems security until they succeed."

The NRC report, "Realizing the Potential of C4I: Fundamental Challenges," sharply criticized DOD systems protection efforts, saying the Pentagon has fallen behind "in a race to protect computer information systems that are increasingly critical to military operations."

The report said site visits to troops in the field revealed that they "do not appear to take protection of computer information systems as seriously as they do other aspects of defense." The site visits also uncovered "security practices that were far inferior to the best commercial practices for information systems protection, or the best security practices of DOD."

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