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Cyber Self-Defense


Recently, I was asked the most interesting questions I have been asked for over a decade.  The complex question came in two parts. One, is the right to bear ‘cyber arms’ covered under the Second Amendment; and two, if an individual or an organization has the right to cyber self defense, also known as the right to return cyber fire.  

I began to research this most intriguing topic.  The best response was a doctored image of Charlton Heston’s famous National Rifle Association pose holding a rifle and saying “From my cold dead hands.”

The image was altered, replacing the rifle with a CD and mouse. The humor in this image is short lived and it quickly fades to images of just how dangerous this is. Cyber attacks and the weaponry used to carry out these attacks now have an operational range from a common form of protest, to attack capabilities that have placed their impact in the WMD category.

In fact, the former Director of National Intelligence, Mike McConnell, referred to cyber weapons as being considered to be included in the WMD class of weaponry on PBS’ the  Charlie Rose Show in January 2009.

I posed the question about the right to bear cyber arms and return fire in cyber space to Jeff Carr – well known author of Inside Cyber Warfare. He quickly responded by saying,  “I think it's an unwelcome development that will make an already complex set of problems for the Departmet of Defense (DoD) and the Justice Department (DoJ) a whole lot more complicated.

“Personally,” Carr continued, “I'd like to see the Justice Department formally address this as a big “no,” and then let someone take it to the Supreme Court for a ruling.”

Several security professionals were quick to point out that a corporation has an obligation to protect their corporate assets and one method of cyber defense, rightly or wrongly, may indeed include returning cyber fire and taking out the attacking computers.  We live in the digital age and the dangers we face from cyber weapons is only dwarfed by nuclear and biological weapons.

Allowing individuals to own cyber arms and use them is risky and makes an extremely dangerous situation much more perilous. 


Kevin Coleman is a Senior Fellow with Technolytics located in McMurray, PA and he is a cyber warfare subject matter expert. He can be reached at: [email protected]


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