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US response to hack must be powerful

What is being called the SolarWinds hack of tens of thousands of private and government networks may have been the most serious digital invasion of the United States ever, those with knowledge of the situation have said. It may take years to repair the damage, they add.

As many as 18,000 computer networks have been compromised by the hack, which got its name from the Texas software firm through which the hackers invaded networks.

U.S. intelligence agencies say the attack bears all the signs of having originated in Russia. More detailed knowledge of where blame should be laid needs to be obtained.

Fixing blame is the easy part, however. Deterring the culprits from doing the same thing — or worse — in the future is a knottier challenge.

Attacks on the incredibly complex computer systems relied upon by both the private sector and government have increased steadily during recent years. They come from many villains, including the Russian, Chinese, North Korean and Iranian regimes. They are the critical national security concern of the 21st century.

How can they be stopped? Clearly, traditional responses such as economic sanctions and diplomatic attacks have not worked. New, effective counterattacks are needed. Nothing short of military action ought to be off the table.

Finding ways to make leaders of rogue regimes suffer personally may be the only way to end the attacks.

One way or another, U.S. officials must develop effective deterrents against foreign hackers, whether they are sponsored by their governments or are in it for personal gain. The potential for the hackers to do enormous, possibly life-threatening, damage to Americans makes such an initiative imperative.

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