Pentagon to Boost Cyber-Security Unit Five-Fold, Eyes Effective Offense
January 28, 2013 3:34 PM
comment(s) - last by
Force will rise from 900 troops to around 4,900 over the next several years
The U.S. is finally getting more serious about cybersecurity in the wake of stinging attacks from
economic rivals such as China
military adversaries like Iran
. Currently the
U.S. Department of Defense
(USCYBERCOM) unit is stressed to the brink, with a small crew of around 900 soldiers. That count is reportedly dwarfed by the
large cyberwarfare teams
in Iran, China, and other cyberpowers.
I. Better Defense, More Offense
The DOD announced this week ambitious plans to catch up, growing the unit five-fold to around 4,900 troops. The plan was first formulated by senior Pentagon officials late last year and is in the final stages of confirmation.
Under the plan, Cyber Command will be split into three distinct subunits, each with a distinct purpose. "National mission forces" will protect critical infrastructure like
power and water grids
or attacks; "combat mission forces" will communicate with overseas officers and coordinate cyberattacks (
); and "cyber protection forces" will be tasked with entrenching the Pentagon's networks against both foreign and
Sources indicate that the "national mission" teams will only take action on U.S. networks if a sister agency, such as the
Federal Bureau of Investigation
(FBI), requests it. While that may not lay to rest citizen fears of domestic spying or policing, it does suggest -- at least officially -- a limited domestic role for the expanding unit.
An unnamed official
, "There’s no intent to have the military crawl inside industry or private networks and provide that type of security. [Action would only be taken in cases where the adversary could] really hurt. We’re not talking about doing something to make sure that Mrs. Smith’s bank account didn’t get hijacked by somebody."
The U.S. wants better cyberoffensive capabilities to use against hostile regimes like Iran.
[Image Source: ISNA]
The plan to dramatically expand the
three-year old unit
-- at a time when the military as a whole is undergoing sweeping budget cuts -- is a sign of cyberwarfare's growing role in modern warfare.
William J. Lynn III, a former deputy defense secretary, tells
The Washington Post
that the plan is long overdue, commenting, "Given the malicious actors that are out there and the development of the technology, in my mind, there’s little doubt that some adversary is going to attempt a significant cyberattack on the United States at some point. The only question is whether we’re going to take the necessary steps like this one to deflect the impact of the attack in advance or . . . read about the steps we should have taken in some post-attack commission report."
II. Big Challenges Ahead
Currently, the DOD relies heavily on the
National Security Agency
(NSA) for its cyberwarfare needs. Indeed, Cyber Command's main physical presence is located directly beside the main NSA building in Fort Meade, Maryland. But the NSA's official role is limited to foreign intelligence gather; outside of electronic intelligence it's ill suited to provide necessary cyberoffensive or defensive capabilities.
The question, going ahead, though is how to merge the NSA's existing support role with the expanding role of the Cyber Command unit.
Some argue that when Cyber Command is expanded "you sever that" relationship with the NSA. But others say the NSA will continue to complement the bigger, more independent unit without issue. Comments one source, "That’s been the plan all along. Take the talent resident in NSA, turn it into [cyber] attack talent."
Another key unanswered question is where the Pentagon will be able to get enough qualified hackers to join its ranks. Funding will obviously play a key role, but one problem is simply availability; skilled security experts are a relatively rarity and many have misgivings about working for "the man" (aka the U.S. Military).
Comments one Navy source, "You get the resource guys sucking a lot of air through their teeth because they know their service chiefs have backed it. So they have to find the resources to pay for the people."
Many hackers frown on working for the Pentagon, but given sufficient money they might change their tune. [Image Source: Reuters]
Figuring out those challenges will be a big part of
Keith B. Alexander
's job. Director Alexander, who jointly serves as director of the NSA and chief of the Cyber Command.
Director Alexander is expected to retire or move to another agency in summer 2014, but until then he will be pushing strong to gain the ability for Cyber Command to have its own independent budget, something other major military branches have. Such authority would have to be granted by Congress.
In the meantime his agencies will continue to ponder how to recruit talent, how to differentiate their respective roles, and how to counterattack foreign cyberagressors with their small, but growing staff of government hackers.
The Washington Post
This article is over a month old, voting and posting comments is disabled
1/28/2013 5:15:47 PM
The Government getting bigger? Under this Administration?
Well color me shocked and kiss my grits!! What will they think of next...
1/28/2013 10:56:33 PM
Because we all know that Reagan wasn't the first president to get us to 1 trillion dollars in the national debt.
And George W. Bush wasn't the first president to get us to 2 trillion dollars in the debt.
And George W. Bush wasn't the first president to get us to 3 trillion dollars.
Thank goodness there's a party that's against big government!
1/28/2013 11:45:37 PM
If this were announced with Mitt Romney in office you would be lauding the move as a great step forward with cyber warfare/defense. You aren't anti-big government you're anti-Obama...
Glad to see the troll is back though as we've all missed the laughs.
"Intel is investing heavily (think gazillions of dollars and bazillions of engineering man hours) in resources to create an Intel host controllers spec in order to speed time to market of the USB 3.0 technology." -- Intel blogger Nick Knupffer
Anonymous Declares War on the U.S. Government Following Aaron Swartz' Suicide
January 26, 2013, 1:43 PM
Two U.S. Power Plants Infected With USB Malware Last Year
January 17, 2013, 3:01 PM
Iran Accuses U.S. and Israel of Spreading Holiday Stuxnet "Cheer"
December 26, 2012, 3:57 PM
Move Over China, Iran May Have Been Source of Latest Cyberattacks on the U.S.
October 16, 2012, 4:25 AM
NSA: China is Destroying U.S. Economy Via Security Hacks
March 28, 2012, 7:06 PM
Star Wars Spinoff Film "Rogue One", Theme Park Attractions Announced
August 17, 2015, 12:20 PM
SpaceX Falcon 9's Seventh Supply Mission to ISS Ends w/ Fiery Stage 1 Explosion
June 28, 2015, 1:10 PM
Cool Science Video: Glowing Millipede Prowls the Nevada Desert
May 18, 2015, 12:00 PM
Newly Discovered Costa Rican Glass Frog is Kermit's Doppelgänger
April 22, 2015, 11:26 AM
Researchers Hope to Find "Exotic" Lifeforms Inside Crater of Dinosaur Killing Meteor
April 14, 2015, 8:47 PM
Mathematician's Sociological Formulation May Explain the "Hipster Paradox"
April 14, 2015, 1:13 PM
Most Popular Articles
Worth the Wait? Microsoft Teases at Windows 10 Flagship Phones to Air Oct. 6
September 15, 2015, 5:13 PM
Breaking Bad: How to Crash Google's Chrome Browser With Just 8 Characters
September 23, 2015, 11:08 AM
Apple's First Fixes to iOS 9 Land w/ iOS 9.0.1 Release
September 23, 2015, 6:11 PM
Grading Apple's iPhone 6S, a Frustrating Object of Beauty
September 10, 2015, 1:08 PM
Fakebook Pt. I: From "The Chive" to "AskMen"; How Facebook's Phonies are Born and Used
September 15, 2015, 4:00 AM
Latest Blog Posts
Sceptre Airs 27", 120 Hz. 1080p Monitor/HDTV w/ 5 ms Response Time for $220
Dec 3, 2014, 10:32 PM
Costco Gives Employees Thanksgiving Off; Wal-Mart Leads "Black Thursday" Charge
Oct 29, 2014, 9:57 PM
"Bear Selfies" Fad Could Turn Deadly, Warn Nevada Wildlife Officials
Oct 28, 2014, 12:00 PM
The Surface Mini That Was Never Released Gets "Hands On" Treatment
Sep 26, 2014, 8:22 AM
ISIS Imposes Ban on Teaching Evolution in Iraq
Sep 17, 2014, 5:22 PM
More Blog Posts
Copyright 2015 DailyTech LLC. -
Terms, Conditions & Privacy Information