US Says It'll Respond to Online Attacks with Offline Warfare

Up until now, the Pentagon's been concerned with how best to out-hack hostile hackers. Counter-cyberwarfare. But that's changed—the military's decided digital attacks can be considered acts of war, with bombs, not bits, dropped in return, the WSJ reports.

One anonymous military official puts it pretty damn succinctly: "If you shut down our power grid, maybe we will put a missile down one of your smokestacks." You hack our computers, maybe we'll blow up your buildings. This is a profound shift, with potentially massive consequences.

But a flaming open question remains: how hard to you punch back IRL if you're attacked online? That's a question the Pentagon's still trying to wrap its five-sided brain around. The main argument is behind a doctrine of "equivalence"—causing as much physical damage as was caused by a digital attack. So, let's say a foreign power takes out an air traffic control hub and cripples domestic flights—maybe we bomb their airports back.

Or if Chicago's power is shut down in the dead of winter, putting lives on the line—do we then start shelling cities? Figuring out an equivalent between the digital and the real will be an immense task, and one with lives on the line. It'll also open up the Pentagon to a panoply of new ways to start flinging ordnance. War...War sometimes changes? [WSJ]