The U.S. warned of a "revolution" of computer hacking threats against the country from foreign governments and non-state actors like the so-called Islamic State. On Tuesday the White House issued the U.S. government's first emergency response manual for a major cyber-attack, though some officials acknowledged it lacked clear guidance on possible retaliation against hacker adversaries.
As the response to major attacks, White House released a presidential policy directive that establishes six levels of severity for attacks, a color-coded system that evokes the terror alert system formally used by the Homeland Security Department.
A high-level federal response following the directive’s guidelines will be triggered anytime there’s an attack at or above a level three – orange – indicating an attack likely to affect public health or safety, economic or national security or other U.S. interests. A level 5 – black – is an emergency that poses an “imminent threat” to critical infrastructure, government stability or U.S. lives.
The directive lays out which federal law enforcement and intelligence agencies take the lead coordinating the various parts of the response to the attack.
"To put it bluntly, we are in the midst of a revolution of the cyber threat, one that is growing more persistent, more diverse, more frequent and more dangerous every day," White House counter-terrorism adviser Lisa Monaco told a cyber-security conference in New York.
The directive comes short after the hack of Democratic National Committee emails. Cyber security experts said there was evidence Russia engineered the release of sensitive DNC emails to influence the Nov. 8 election. Moscow has called the accusations “paranoid.”