President ordered list of potential cyberattack targets, reveals leak

Following claims yesterday that the government is performing widespread domestic spying via a project called PRISM, today The Guardian has revealed that President Obama ordered the powers that be to create a list of potential foreign cyberattack targets as part of an offensive cyber operation. The information is said to come from a top-secret order by Obama that was leaked to the media company.

The order was given as part of the Presidential Policy Directive 20, of which some brief information about it was published earlier this year. The declassified fact sheet did not include information about the president's order, instead providing basic information on the directive, such things like, "The President recently signed a classified Presidential directive relating to cyber operations."

The leaked aspect of the directive is called Offensive Cyber Effects Operations, OCEO for short, and details what is said to offer "unique and unconventional capabilities" for the United States and its objectives. Furthermore, the directive would provide a framework that gives "little or no warning to the adversary or target," and offers "potential effects ranging from subtle to severely damaging."

Perhaps the most telling part of the leaked document is the part that explains the OCEO aspect of the directive as "operations and related programs or activities ... conducted by or on behalf of the United States Government, in or through cyberspace, that are intended to enable or produce cyber effects outside United States government networks."

The document is said to include stipulations that the cyber actions of the US need to be in line with both international and US laws, and that the president must approve any actions that could have "significant consequences."

Such a leak comes at a time when cyberattacks are on the rise, and accusations are being tossed around over alleged hacking activities. Earlier this year, for example, China was accused of performing systematic hacks on various US organizations and companies, something it then turned around and accused the US of doing. This upcoming Friday, President Obama will be meeting with China's Xi Jinping in California over the cyberattacks said to be taking place against the US.

SOURCE: The Guardian