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Computer Sabotage Tantamount To An Act of War?

By Adam Ramirez | Last updated on

FindLaw columnist Eric Sinrod writes regularly in this section on legal developments surrounding technology and the internet.

Is it possible that a Cyber attack against the United States emanating from another country be considered a potential act of war? Yes, according to the Pentagon, The Wall Street Journal reports.

This means that the United States might be enabled to mobilize military force in response to certain Cyber attacks.

This reportedly is part of the Pentagon's first formal Cyber strategy. Unclassified parts of that strategy apparently are to be made public in a month.

Of course, the devil will be in the details. For example, what types and levels of attacks will be sufficient to be deemed acts of war? Plus, it may be difficult to conclude with relative certainty the source of a given Cyber attack - meaning that it may be difficult to wage war against an enemy that is not clearly defined.

Perhaps one of the main points behind the Pentagon's Cyber strategy is to send a message to would-be attackers that the upshot of a Cyber attack against the United States could be a true military response. The hope might be that this message may act as a deterrent to those contemplating such Cyber attacks.

Surely, the United States does need to consider how to grapple with Cyber threats, as our country's infrastructure has become ever more reliant upon the Internet. Technological security measures should be further developed and implemented.

So while time will tell whether the prospect of military action will deter Cyber attacks and whether military force actually will be brought to bear as a result of successful Cyber attacks.

Eric Sinrod is a partner in the San Francisco office of Duane Morris LLP ( where he focuses on litigation matters of various types, including information technology and intellectual property disputes. His Web site is and he can be reached at To receive a weekly email link to Mr. Sinrod's columns, please send an email to him with Subscribe in the Subject line. This column is prepared and published for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice. The views expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the author's law firm or its individual partners.

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