October 31, 2012 - General James Cartwright, fellow at CSIS and former Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, at Washington Post Live's Cybersecurity Summit. (Jeff Martin)

The question is, for the country, what are those things that you believe put us at risk as a nation, as an institution and a government, and when do we cross that line?

You’re in an area where there’s not a lot of precedents here. . . . We’ve had ships taken over. We’ve had embassies taken over. Those are not acts of war or were not treated as acts of war. So what does it [cyber war] look like? I think you’re asking the question that everybody would like to know the answer to. I just don’t know today that there is a black and white answer for that question.

The threat is really for the most part now in intellectual capital and crime. The one thing you want to be careful about here is pouring cement on policy and law when this activity has not yet matured. We don’t really understand and cannot precisely characterize its form yet. That’s the only caution you have. You don’t want to be in paralysis though. The work that’s going, the questions that are being asked have to be asked and they have to be pressed on.