Clinton: Treat cyberattacks 'like any other attack'

Clinton: Treat cyberattacks 'like any other attack'
© Getty Images

Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonBiden prepares to confront Putin Ending the same-sex marriage wars Trump asks Biden to give Putin his 'warmest regards' MORE on Wednesday called for the U.S. to begin treating cyberattacks like any other assault on the country.

“As president, I will make it clear that the United States will treat cyberattacks just like any other attack,” the Democratic presidential nominee said. “We will be ready with serious political, economic and military responses.”


Clinton called for the U.S. to “lead the world in setting the rules in cyberspace.”

“If America doesn’t, others will,” she said.

The remarks, given during a foreign policy speech at the American Legion Convention in Cincinnati, address one the central challenges the Obama administration has faced in responding to cyberattacks.

Without any international rules of engagement, officials must weigh a response to each attack individually — with the result being that the White House has often been accused of not having an adequate deterrence strategy.

Critics say that a lack of policy has muted government responses to incidents such as the massive hack of the Office of Personnel Management, which Chinese hackers are believed to have carried out.

Clinton cited the recent attack on the Democratic National Committee (DNC), thought to be carried out by Russian intelligence.

In neither hack has the White House publicly named the culprit.

Lawmakers from both sides of the aisle have called for a coherent “cyber war strategy” — something akin to the Geneva Conventions that would set a policy for what is considered “an act of war” in the digital realm.

A White House policy on cyber deterrence released in December took heat from some lawmakers for “a troubling lack of seriousness and focus.”

“That kind of indecisiveness is antithetical to deterrence, and our nation simply cannot afford it,” Sen. John McCain (R-Arz.) said during a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing in April.

But part of the problem, experts say, is that it is notoriously tricky to prove who is behind a given cyberattack with 100 percent certainty.

And since many high-profile cyberattacks could be interpreted as traditional intelligence-gathering — something the U.S. itself also engages in — the White House is often in a tricky political position when it comes to its response.

The U.S. has tried to draw a red line at hacking private companies for economic gain, in September signing an anti-hacking pledge with China that prohibits such operations.

In April, Obama issued an executive order giving the Treasury Department the authority to impose sanctions on individuals or entities behind malicious cyberattacks and cyber espionage.