In a world with cyber warfare rules …

What do fighter jets have in common with cyber attacks? During war, neither can be deliberately routed through another country if that nation has not given permission.

This is one of the new rules, similar to existing guidelines for nuclear bombs, missiles, and espionage, signed today by President Barack Obama. The executive orders outline cyber attack etiquette for military commanders. The United States is currently collaborating with other countries on the rules.

Word on the guidelines, which have not yet been released in their entirety (that will happen “soon,” whatever that means.), comes from the Associated Press. The AP spoke with “several” government officials on condition of anonymity, although they point out some of the rules have been made public by US officials in recent speeches.

Perhaps one of the most significant results of the rules is the acknowledgement that cyber attacks are the new bomb. A cyberattack can bring down an enemy’s electrical grid much like bombs have done in the past.

“You don’t have to bomb them anymore. That’s the new world,” said James Lewis, cyber security expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, in an interview with the Associated Press.

Other guidelines indicate that the US can defensively take down servers in other countries and has the “right to pursue attackers across national boundaries — even if those are virtual network lines,” explains the AP.

The Wall Street Journal broke the original story on the guidelines at the end of May 2011, following reports of cyber attacks on the Pentagon and Lockheed Martin.

[Photo credit: West Point Public Affairs via Flickr]

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