Federal officials warn that cyber-attacks are becoming greater threats to American security. U.S. Senator Mike Rounds is sponsoring an act that defines cyber war. Proponents say it helps America defend itself, some opponents say there is no one size fits all strategy for war.
Senator Mike Rounds is proposing the 2016 - Cyber Act of War Act. This bill requires the president to develop a policy within 180 days to determine whether a cyber-attack constitutes an act of war. This act draws parallels between a cyber-attack and the use of physical weapons. It also considers the potential scope and effects of a cyber-attack.
“A cyber act of war can occur instantaneously—within milliseconds—and so unless we have a plan in place to where our defenses can be real time and acted immediately, it’s too late to respond and actually protect some of our cyber assets," says Rounds.
Rounds urges Americans to not underestimate the serious threat of cyber-attacks.
“You could shut down an economy that impacts everybody in South Dakota, and that is something which is a very serious threat. It’s not one that may directly kill someone, but it could destroy an economy and cost billions and billions of dollars over a period of months," says Rounds.
Rounds is a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee. He says this legislation allows the American military to better respond to and prevent cyber-attacks. But defining an act of war is controversial among experts. Shane Nordyke is a political science professor at the University of South Dakota. She says trying to create an exact definition of cyber war will probably not result in any changes in current security measures or ambiguity surrounding cyber war.
“In all matters of warfare, it’s very difficult for us to ever have a one-size-fits-all prescription because context will always matter—who’s the perpetrator, who’s the target, what’s the scale of damage, what’s the motivation. All of that’s going to have an influence on what the appropriate level of response is going to be," says Nordyke.
Nordyke also says trying to draw comparisons between traditional war and cyber war is difficult because each result in differing short-term and long-term damages.