Could Cyber Skirmish Lead U.S. to War?
Bob Sullivan writes on MSNBC's "Red Tape Chronicles" Blog:
Imagine this scenario: Estonia, a NATO member, is cut off from the Internet by cyber attackers who besiege the country's bandwidth with a devastating denial of service attack. Then, the nation's power grid is attacked, threatening economic disruption and even causing loss of life as emergency services are overwhelmed. As international outcry swells, outside researchers determine the attack is being sponsored by a foreign government and being directed from a military base. Desperate and outgunned in tech resources, Estonia invokes Article 5 of the NATO Treaty -- an attack against one member nation is an attack against all. It requests an immediate response from its military allies: Bomb the attacker's command-and-control headquarters to stop the punishing cyber attack.More here.
Now, the U.S. government is faced with a chilling question: Should it get dragged into a shooting war by a cyber attack on an ally? Or should it decline and threaten the fiber of the NATO alliance?
About half this fictional scenario occurred in 2007, when Estonian government and financial Web sites were crippled by a cyber attack during a dispute with Russia. That incident never escalated to this hypothetic level, however: The source of the attack was unclear, physical harm did not occur and Estonia never invoked Article 5.
The incident did, however, get other NATO members thinking: When would they be required to rise to the defense of an ally during a cyber attack?