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General: Cyberattack on U.S. Might Lead to Military Strike

The U.S. is ready to respond with physical military force to a cyberattack, a top general says.

"The Law of Armed Conflict will apply to this domain," Air Force Gen. Kevin P. Chilton, head of U.S. Strategic Command, told reporters at a breakfast roundtable Thursday, according to Stars and Stripes.

"I don't think you take anything off the table when you provide options to the president to decide," said Chilton. "You don't take any response options off the table from an attack on the United States of America. Why would we constrain ourselves on how we would respond?"

American military computers are constantly probed by intruders — thousands of times per day, Chilton said.

While most probes are information-gathering attempts, the Pentagon and the White House are increasingly concerned about possible hostile cyberattacks designed to knock out governmental, infrastructure, or military computer systems.

Unsophisticated cyberattacks originating in Russia crippled computer systems in Estonia and Georgia during recent times of international crisis. Chinese military hackers are presumed by experts to be much more skilled.

Chilton said military leaders would advise the president and defense secretary if something like that ever hit this country.

"Our job would be to present them options, just as every other combatant commander would do," he told Stars and Stripes.

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