President Trump Eases Cyber Warfare Rules – Report

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelance and long standing contributor to TechWeek Europe

Reverses Obama’s bureaucratic rules that dictate how and when the United States can deploy its offensive cyberweapon arsenal

President Donald Trump has reportedly relaxed the complex guidelines that have to be followed if the United States were to launch a cyber-attack against a rogue nation.

Former President Obama had created the guidelines that require a large number of federal agencies to be involved in any decision to launch a cyber-attack against a foreign state.

But now, President Trump has reportedly signed an order relaxing rules around the use of cyber-weapons, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Cyber offensive

The idea is to loosen the restrictions for the launching of a cyber warfare offensive, the WSJ quoted people familiar with the action as saying.

President Trump on Wednesday apparently signed an order that reserves Obama’s Presidential Policy Directive 20 – which is the classified rules authorising the use of America’s cyber-attack arsenal.

Some law-makers had reportedly criticised Obama’s directive as being too bureaucratic.

But some experts are concerned that easing the rules surrounding the use of cyber offensive capabilities is a risky move.

“We are in a era when certain governments are acting aggressively in cyber-space, and that is rightly condemned by governments such as that in the US,” Prof Alan Woodward, a computer scientist at the University of Surrey, told the BBC.

“To respond in kind is not necessarily the way to de-escalate the situation,” he is quoted as saying. “You wouldn’t allow a pre-emptive physical attack without thorough analysis and approval at the highest levels, so why would cyber-attacks be any different?”

This sentiment was echoed by another cyber security expert.

“I have no doubts that the underlying motives of this decision are colourable and purport to bring peace and prosperity,” said High-Tech Bridge‘s CEO Ilia Kolochenko. “However, I think the decision will inevitable escalate the already tense situation among nation states. Following the US example, many other countries may consider this option, virtually declaring cyber war on each other. ”

“In a worst case scenario, the future may resemble the chemical weapon usage during World War I: once countries finally understood the evil they had unleashed, millions of people had already died in suffering,” said Kolochenko. “Today, well prepared cyber-attacks against critical infrastructures can cause many millions of deaths and trillions in damages in all countries including the US. Bad peace is always better than a good war, however, it will probably take some time before everyone agrees with that.”

The move comes as President Trump faces pressure over claims that “the Russian Government aspired to help his election chances when possible by discrediting Secretary Clinton,” when it hacked the Democratic National Committee emails during the Presidential elections in 2016

Cyber retaliation

There is concern in Washington and in the West that Russia is no longer concerned about its hacking activities remaining covert.

Ever since 2011 the United States has said that it reserves the right to retaliate with military force against a cyber attack from a hostile state.

On this side of the pond, the United Kingdom has more than doubled the number of offensive cyber-capabilities in recent years, as GCHQ ramped up its ability to hit back at those launching cyber-attacks against this country.

In April this year the UK made a rare public admission that it had carried out a cyber offensive against the Islamic State terrorist group.

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