An Act Of War

When bombers unleashed a devastating surprise attack on a naval base in, killing 2,402 and wounding 1,282 more. President called it “a date which will live in infamy” as he asked for a declaration of war.

Fifty years later, another surprise attack killed almost 3,000 people when terrorists flew two jetliners into the twin towers.

We all know what an act of war looks like on land or sea, and by evoking two of the most searing attacks in our modern history, He was trying to raise a sense of urgency about the threat in a new domain made of bits and bytes zinging between servers around the world.

But what does an act of war look like in cyberspace?

And perhaps more important, what does the government do when cyberattacks fall short of that — assuming it can identify the perpetrators in the first place?

What about something like a virus that wiped data from 30,000 computers, affecting business operations for two weeks? He called that assault, along with a similar strike, “probably the most destructive attack” on the private sector to date. Another official declared it a “watershed” moment, beyond the troubling but all-too-familiar thefts of data and disruption of Web sites. This is an act of war where retaliation was necessary.

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