Cyber rules of engagement still unfinished

With the risk of a cyberattack against the nation's power grid and other critical infrastructure growing, the military's promised rules of engagement have yet to materialize.

power station

A successful cyber attack could damage the nation's power grid and other critical infrastructure, but the rules of engagement needed to shape a military response are incomplete.

For months, Defense Department officials have been at work establishing the rules of engagement that will govern military action in cyberspace. Despite recent assurances of their imminence, those rules have yet to be finalized, and some say their absence could affect national security.

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said in October that Pentagon leaders are close to finishing the rules of engagement, an official doctrine that will likely echo in structure the guidelines that regulate armed conflict. But will that be enough to address, on a national level, the constantly evolving landscape in cyberspace?

“The DOD rules of engagement are important, but there’s an issue of whether or not that’s suitable for era we’re in,” said Tim Sample, vice president and sector manager for special programs at Battelle, If the rules are modeled after the traditional rules and assumptions for conventional combat, that would be based on a 'faulty assumption," he said. “It can be argued whether that’s practical [to have] a traditional response to attacks in an era or environment that is by definition very untraditional."

Sample co-edited a book from Battelle on national cyber policy that is due out soon, called “#CyberDoc: No Borders, No Boundaries.”

According to Panetta, the cyber rules of engagement will make the U.S. military more agile and quicker to respond to cyber threats.

“For the past year, [DOD] has been working very closely with other agencies to understand where are the lines of responsibility when it comes to cyber defense. Where do we draw those lines? And how do those responsibilities get executed?” he said at New York event. “As part of that effort, the department is now finalizing the most comprehensive change to our rules of engagement in cyberspace in seven years. The new rules will make clear that the department has a responsibility, not only to defend DOD’s networks, but also to be prepared to defend the nation and our national interests against an attack in or through cyberspace.”

One challenge for establishing rules of engagement is that much of the critical infrastructure under threat -- the nation's power grid, financial networks and other essential systems -- are privately owned. Panetta has said repeatedly that collaboration with the private sector is crucial to create a policy that will protect the infrastructure.

At the Association of the United States Army conference in Washington last month, Lt. Gen. Don Campbell, commanding general of the Army’s III Corps and Fort Hood, Texas, echoed the need for military rules for cyber operations.

“How far can we go to target this network or that network or capability or system? We’re going to have to decide as a service or military,” Campbell said.

According to Sample, the U.S. needs a broader strategy for national security in cyberspace that encompasses more than only the military. Today’s national security policies are rooted in the Cold War era – a bygone era outdated by the vulnerabilities of reliance on technology.

“The national-level doctrine that we had – defined as a priority in direction that guides government and industry and even individual citizens – really was doctrine of containment after World War II. After the Cold War, containment fell by wayside and never really was replaced,” Sample said. “Now, the stakes are higher. We are much more vulnerable because of our reliance on the Internet and technology. We’ve created a myriad of positions, policies and legislation to evaluate vulnerabilities as they emerge. The problem is that it’s basically unconnected; it’s lacking in the overall focus that we’d have in a national doctrine.”

While DOD’s rules of engagement will direct military action in cyberspace, a wider national-level doctrine should lay the groundwork for a more comprehensive range of issues related to cybersecurity, from federal guidelines to everyday activities, Sample said.

For example, in the Cold War era there was an understanding of responsibility at the individual citizen level – take, for example, the drills in which schoolchildren would take shelter under their desks in preparation for a nuclear bomb. While that activity itself is an obsolete idea now, it represents the reach a national doctrine should have, Sample noted.

“The difference [from the military ROE] is that the doctrine, in essence, is an overarching structure or framework that everything else should be fitting into. It’s not just DOD, Homeland Security or the intelligence community; it really is laying out a path and direction for where we want America to move in this cyber era,” he said. “We need to start out by laying down overriding principles…not just in cyber but where the country goes and what our long-term objectives are. We have to have a doctrine that is adaptable and agile. Having an override principle and doctrine will help guide us in a way more effective than what we’re doing today.”

NEXT STORY: 10 tips to keep data secure

X
This website uses cookies to enhance user experience and to analyze performance and traffic on our website. We also share information about your use of our site with our social media, advertising and analytics partners. Learn More / Do Not Sell My Personal Information
Accept Cookies
X
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Do Not Sell My Personal Information

When you visit our website, we store cookies on your browser to collect information. The information collected might relate to you, your preferences or your device, and is mostly used to make the site work as you expect it to and to provide a more personalized web experience. However, you can choose not to allow certain types of cookies, which may impact your experience of the site and the services we are able to offer. Click on the different category headings to find out more and change our default settings according to your preference. You cannot opt-out of our First Party Strictly Necessary Cookies as they are deployed in order to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting the cookie banner and remembering your settings, to log into your account, to redirect you when you log out, etc.). For more information about the First and Third Party Cookies used please follow this link.

Allow All Cookies

Manage Consent Preferences

Strictly Necessary Cookies - Always Active

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data, Targeting & Social Media Cookies

Under the California Consumer Privacy Act, you have the right to opt-out of the sale of your personal information to third parties. These cookies collect information for analytics and to personalize your experience with targeted ads. You may exercise your right to opt out of the sale of personal information by using this toggle switch. If you opt out we will not be able to offer you personalised ads and will not hand over your personal information to any third parties. Additionally, you may contact our legal department for further clarification about your rights as a California consumer by using this Exercise My Rights link

If you have enabled privacy controls on your browser (such as a plugin), we have to take that as a valid request to opt-out. Therefore we would not be able to track your activity through the web. This may affect our ability to personalize ads according to your preferences.

Targeting cookies may be set through our site by our advertising partners. They may be used by those companies to build a profile of your interests and show you relevant adverts on other sites. They do not store directly personal information, but are based on uniquely identifying your browser and internet device. If you do not allow these cookies, you will experience less targeted advertising.

Social media cookies are set by a range of social media services that we have added to the site to enable you to share our content with your friends and networks. They are capable of tracking your browser across other sites and building up a profile of your interests. This may impact the content and messages you see on other websites you visit. If you do not allow these cookies you may not be able to use or see these sharing tools.

If you want to opt out of all of our lead reports and lists, please submit a privacy request at our Do Not Sell page.

Save Settings
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Cookie List

A cookie is a small piece of data (text file) that a website – when visited by a user – asks your browser to store on your device in order to remember information about you, such as your language preference or login information. Those cookies are set by us and called first-party cookies. We also use third-party cookies – which are cookies from a domain different than the domain of the website you are visiting – for our advertising and marketing efforts. More specifically, we use cookies and other tracking technologies for the following purposes:

Strictly Necessary Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Functional Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Performance Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Social Media Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Targeting Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.