Last week's announcement by Pentagon officials that cyberattacks could be classified as acts of war caused concern among those who worry that the United States might act outside international law if it retaliates to such attacks with military force. Others assert the move amounts to little more than a money grab by budget-savvy advocates looking to foment fear and exploit public ignorance.
But many cybersecurity experts say the policy statement is merely the latest step in a strategy that President Barack Obama began developing two years ago. And, they say, it might act as a deterrent to would-be U.S. enemies.
"This is a good step," said Michael Hayden, former CIA director and a retired Air Force general. "The single greatest limitation in this area has been the lack of clarity in policy. Even if it's stating the obvious, it's helpful because it helps those inside and outside the government to understand the United States' position."