New DoD safeguards for autonomous systems exempt cyber

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New rules that the Defense Department issued Nov. 21 to prevent collateral damage from autonomous weapons don't apply to cyber systems.

The directive (.pdf), which exempts "cyberspace systems for cyberspace operations," covers autonomous and semi-autonomous weapon systems. The DoD defines the former as systems that can select and engage targets without human intervention, once activated, while the latter only engage targets that human operators have selected.

Under the directive, autonomous and semi-autonomous weapon systems must be designed so human operators can exercise judgment over the use of force. They must also have human-machine interfaces that operators can readily understand and that can provide traceable feedback on the status of the systems.

The systems will also undergo tests to make sure they avoid failures that may lead to unintended engagements or takeover by unauthorized parties. In case communications malfunction, the systems must be designed to not select targets that a human operator hasn't already chosen.

Those who operate the systems or authorize their use will have to do so in accordance with treaties rules of engagement and the law of war, the directive also says.

The Nov. 21 directive, signed by Deputy Defense Secretary Ashton Carter, will expire in November 2022 if DoD doesn't reissue or cancel it within 5 years.

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said in October that the department was finalizing revised rules of engagement for cyberspace, the first major revision in 7 years.

For more:
- download the directive, 3000.09 (.pdf)

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