Definitions for cyberwar terms sought by House lawmakers

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The Trump administration should publish definitions for key terms in cyberspace conflict as part of a comprehensive national policy to defend the country from online attack, says a resolution introduced in the House.

“The United States should develop and adopt a comprehensive cybersecurity policy that clearly define acts of aggression, acts of war, and other related events in cyberspace, including any commensurate responses” by U.S. forces, states the bipartisan resolution, H. Res. 200.

It is sponsored by Democrat C.A. “Dutch” Ruppersberger of Maryland, whose district includes the Fort Meade headquarters of the NSA and U.S. Cyber Command, and by Republican Scott Taylor of Virginia, who represents the  defense-facility heavy Newport News-Virginia Beach area. Such “sense of the House” resolutions are non-binding, but the sponsors said they wanted to use the document to start a conversation about properly preparing the nation to defend itself from hackers, cybercriminals and other online enemies.

The two men serve together on the powerful House Appropriations Committee. Their resolution reflects the thinking of many experts who say the United States needs to be more candid about its “red lines” in cyberspace and other elements of its strategic thinking, to aid in deterrence.

“It’s about time we recognize that cyberspace is the battlefield of the 21st century,” said a statement from Ruppersberger, who was term-limited off the intelligence committee at the end of 2014. “Every day, terrorists, organized criminals even state actors such as Iran and North Korea are honing their cyber skills, threatening our critical infrastructure, safety and economy.”

Ruppersburger stressed the importance of discussing and preparing ahead of time. “It’s not ‘if’ an attack occurs – but when – and we must have a clear and comprehensive cyber strategy in place when that day arrives,” he said.

“The cyber world has been the Wild West for too long,” added Taylor. “Our nation must keep up with the ever-changing landscape to protect our citizens, our critical infrastructure, and our nation from being put at risk or attacked.”

The resolution has been referred to the Foreign Affairs Committee and has not yet been scheduled for a vote.

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