Did Michael Chertoff, former director of Homeland Security, seriously suggest the possibility of responding with special forces to takeout the servers of cyber-attackers?
In a recent interview for Fault Lines on Al Jazeera Englsih, I asked Chertoff -- who is now on the board of the world's largest arms dealer, BAE, and heads his own cyber-security consulting firm -- if he could see the US responding to a cyber attack with kinetic force,
"Sure, that's not out of the question. Imagine that country A attacks and seriously affects our systems. And in order to remove the servers, first we go to the country and say you've got to shut down this server and the country either says we can't or we won't, or we don't have the ability to do so. Now then we'd have to decide how do we shut down the server? Do we do it virtually, by going back over the network? Would it be easier to send a group of special forces in an blow the server up? And again because we haven't really laid out what our doctrine is, there's uncertainty on both sides about how far we would go. And that creates a certain instability in the system."
So this could trigger a real war?
"Well absolutely. Because - look a cyber attack would have real effects. If a cyber attack on our air system caused airliners for example to crash, there would be real loss of life. And it would be every bit as serious as somebody putting a bomb on an airliner. So it would be very easy to see how cyberwarfare could leak into the physical realm and vice versa."
To the see what Chertoff says about the possibility of a cyber catastrophe on par with 9/11 or Pearl Harbor, watch this week's episode of Fault Lines: