Trump Eases Rules for Cyberattacks

Sailors work together during an April 2017 U.S. Cyber Command exercise at Fort Meade, Md. (Photo: U.S. Cyber Command)U.S. President Donald Trump opened the path for the United States to use cyberweapons against adversaries, easing restrictions put in place by his predecessor. John Bolton, Trump’s national security adviser, said on Sept. 20 that the new classified rules will give the Defense Department more authority to use digital weapons to enhance deterrence and to punish foes, with fewer bureaucratic restraints on U.S. action. Bolton’s briefing for reporters came as the administration rolled out its first broad cybersecurity strategy, intended to address cyberthreats to vital infrastructure such as the energy grid and banking networks. Although the United States has considerable offensive cybercapabilities through the U.S. Cyber Command, the country is also widely vulnerable to similar retaliation because of dependence on many vital electronic networks that could be disrupted, compromised, or brought down. Previous U.S. rules on unleashing cyberweapons involved consultation among a range of governmental agencies in an effort to ensure that the possible blowback was considered beforehand. The new rules, in Bolton’s description, ease what had been a lengthy, complicated authorization process.—TERRY ATLAS