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Cyber Attack on U.S. Means Thorough Butt Kicking

U.S. Air Force General Kevin Chilton said on Thursday that the military will not rule out physical aggression against any "force" that attacks the United States through the internet. Chilton, who heads the U.S. Strategic Command, told reporters at a press briefing that the Law of Armed Conflict still applies to the virtual domain even though the initial attack is not physical. The media briefing comes at the heels of a report from weeks ago that North Korea has built a cyber assault force aimed to disrupt South Korea and United States military networks.

"I don’t think you take anything off the table when you provide options to the president to decide," said Chilton, according to Stars and Stripes. "You don’t take any response options off the table from an attack on the United States of America. Why would we constrain ourselves on how we would respond?"

Currently hackers are probing the military's unclassified networks for information that includes personnel and medical records--usually over a thousand times a day--rather than attempting to attack and crash the networks altogether. Chilton said that current threats range from specific nations, to criminals, down to bored teenagers looking for a little hacking fun. But no matter the origin, the threats are real, however he believes that the military's cyber defense is improving, and will require more sophisticated networks--many of which will need additional resources--as time progresses.

"And so that would logically take you to the probably bigger threats, would be nation-state approach or a well funded, well organized, well educated and equipped other organization that may be a non nation-state that had that capability," he said.

Ultimately, the decision to attack "kinetically" would rest upon the president and Defense secretary. For now, there's a debate on whether to join the Pentagon's two cyber commands: the Joint Task Force-Global Network Operations, and the Joint Functional Component Commander-Network Warfare managed by the National Security Agency. By merging both the offense and defense branches, the US Strategic Command would need 2,000 to 4,000 more employees. President Barack Obama and U.S. Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates have yet to decide on the outcome.

Although Chilton did not specify any offensive "nations" during the press briefing, it's widely known that many attacks on the US networks stem from servers in the People's Republic of China. On that same note, sources report that the technology reconnaissance team created by the General Staff of North Korean People's Army visits U.S. military sites more frequently than any other country.

Is there a cyber war on the horizon? From a conspiracy theorist point of view, various reports released over the last few weeks point in that direction. Chilton said that members of the U.S. military service need to think of their computers as the "front lines" as if stepping to the guard gate of a military base.