Ex-Marine Corps General James Cartwright  (Source:
James Cartwright, a recently retired four-star Marine Corps general, is urging the U.S. government to be more open about its use of offensive cyber weapons so that they may act as a deterrent

The string of cyber attacks that were launched against corporate and government entities this year has placed a spotlight on the need for strengthened cyber defense in the U.S., and an ex-U.S. general is pushing for openness on the topic of cyber weapons and when they will be used. 

James Cartwright, a recently retired four-star Marine Corps general who is now a fellow at the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies, is urging the U.S. government to be more open about its use of offensive cyber weapons so that they may act as a deterrent.

"We've got to step up the game; we've got to talk about our offensive capabilities and train to them; to make them credible so that people know there's a penalty to this," said Cartwright. "You can't have something that's a secret be a deterrent. Because if you don't know it's there, it doesn't scare you."

A recent report from the U.S. intelligence community pointing out that China and Russia are the most guilty users of cyber attacks in order to obtain U.S. technology and trade secrets. According to Cartwright, talking more frankly about offensive cyber weapons and explaining when they will be used will help ward off foreign cyber espionage.

"We've got to get that done, because otherwise everything is a free shot at us and there's no penalty for it," said Cartwright.

The U.S. government has been quiet about offensive cyber weapons. It fears that releasing too many details could make the U.S. vulnerable to those that could use the information to figure out how to beat it or defend themselves against it.

But more and more experts and government figures are calling for more openness in this realm of security. David Smith, former U.S. diplomat and current fellow at the Potomac Institute for Policy Studies, noted that it's important to find a healthy balance between sharing information and keeping the specific details hushed.

"You deter by keeping a level of uncertainty," said Smith. "To craft a good deterrent posture, you sort of tell people the kinds of things you have, and roughly, what the response would be if the interest of the United States were threatened, basically, that nothing is off the table."

Cartwright's words echo those of ex-head of the National Security Agency and CIA and retired U.S. Air Force General Michael Hayden, who stated just last month that cyber security is a topic that is "horribly over-classified."

"This may come as a surprise, given my background at the NSA and CIA and so on, but I think that this information is horribly over-classified," said Hayden. "The roots of American cyber power are in the American intelligence community, and we frankly are quite accustomed to working in a world that's classified. I'm afraid that that culture has bled over into how we treat all cyber questions."

Source: Reuters

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