President Barack Obama has developed guidelines for how the U.S. should respond to--and initiate--cyberattacks, the Associated Press is reporting.
Citing anonymous defense officials, the news service claims the guidelines include a wide range of cyberwar efforts to be employed by the U.S. during both peacetime and when conflicts are underway, including installing viruses on international computers and taking down a country's electrical grid.
According to the Associated Press, the guidelines also allow for defense officials to transmit code through another country's network to ensure the connection can be made. Though it wouldn't necessarily carry a dangerous payload at the time, that connection could be used in the future if an attack was authorized on the specific country.
The Associated Press' report on the president's cyberwar guidelines comes just a week after the Chinese military called on its government to invest in more defense against the U.S.
"The U.S. military is hastening to seize the commanding military heights on the Internet, and another Internet war is being pushed to a stormy peak," the Chinese military wrote in its official newspaper, Liberation Army Daily. "Their actions remind us that to protect the nation's Internet security, we must accelerate Internet defense development and accelerate steps to make a strong Internet army."
However, there is already speculation that the Chinese government has a formidable Internet army. Over the last few years, attacks seeming to originate in China have targeted several prominent U.S. corporations and government contractors, sparking concerns that the U.S. hasn't done enough to defend itself over the Web.
"Senior U.S. officials know well that the government of China is systematically attacking the computer networks of the U.S. government and American corporations," former U.S. national security official Richard Clarke wrote last week in an op-ed piece for The Wall Street Journal. "Beijing is successfully stealing research and development, software source code, manufacturing know-how and government plans."
The latest cyberattack believed to originate from China came last month when Google announced that the personal Gmail accounts of top U.S. government officials, as well as Chinese political activists, were targeted in a phishing attack aimed at gaining access to their accounts. Though Google was able to foil the plot, the company said that the attacks originated from Jinan, China, a known home to a Chinese government intelligence division.
With each attack on the U.S., China has said that its government was not involved. Speaking today to Reuters, a senior Chinese government official echoed that sentiment.
"Though hackers attack the U.S. Internet and China's Internet, I believe they do not represent any country," the official told Reuters. "The international community ought to come up with some rules to prevent this misuse of advanced technology."
Though the U.S. guidelines on cyberwarfare have been in place for more than a month, according to the AP, the Pentagon will publicly divulge details on them "soon."