By Jason Miller
March 4, 2008
Defense Department officials are making their second annual push for
more authority and funding for cyberwarfare. This time, they seem to be
expressing their needs more forcefully.
Last week, two DOD officials told the House Armed Services Committee
that adversaries recognize the U.S. governments reliance on cyberspace
and constantly seek a competitive advantage.
Meanwhile, Deputy Secretary of Defense Gordon England told the audience
at the Veterans of Foreign Wars 2008 Washington Conference this week
that cyberwarfare is one of DODs and the governments major challenges.
He said President Bush tried to address the threat by establishing a
task force to coordinate federal efforts to safeguard the governments
networks. England likely was referring to the classified directive the
administration issued in January. It focuses on 12 cyber areas and
includes some offensive measures, according to a source familiar with
The source said the directive didnt give DOD or anyone in government the
authority to take offensive tactics but did ask for budget estimates and
ideas for computer network and exploitation capabilities.
DOD also issued a new report on Chinas military power that addressed
that countrys reliance on cyberspace.
In the past year, numerous computer networks around the world, including
those owned by the U.S. government, were subject to intrusions that
appear to have originated within the Peoples Republic of China, the
report states. These intrusions require many of the skills and
capabilities that would also be required for computer network attack.
Although it is unclear if these intrusions were conducted by, or with
the endorsement of, the [Peoples Liberation Army] or other elements of
the PRC government, developing capabilities for cyberwarfare is
consistent with authoritative PLA writings on this subject.
The report also states that Chinas military strategy includes noncontact
warfare. That concept includes cyberattacks against civilian and
military networks especially against communications and logistics nodes.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang told reporters that
accusations that cyberattacks originated in China were groundless and
Chinese officials expressed strong dissatisfaction with them. He added
that China was also a victim of hackers and that the Chinese government
and military do not hire civilian hackers to carry out attacks.
The only thing Im seeing that is big and new is an openness that DOD has
been badly hit by cyberattacks, said Alan Paller, director of research
at the SANS Institute. This is a strategic change in DOD policy. There
are two ways to deal with it: Keep it secret, or go public and say they
are mad and not going to take it anymore. They are taking the right
Paller added that if DOD or any agency, for that matter keeps silent on
the attacks, then vendors and others cannot help solve the problem
because they dont know it exists.
DODs concerns about foreign influence on software development are also
growing. Industry sources say military officials are creating a new rule
for DODs version of the Federal Acquisition Regulation that might
require vendors to certify compliance with a new cybersecurity standard,
participate in a new integrated detection-and-response process and
possibly require only American-made hardware and software for certain
medium- and high-risk systems.
DOD wants companies to keep engineering control over their products,
said an industry source who requested anonymity. Vendors will have to
demonstrate and verify [that] products match a security specification.
The industry source said some observers are concerned that DOD wants to
return to government off-the-shelf products, which would cost a lot more
and potentially cut off some vendors from working with the military.
All of the recent actions are the result of increasing concerns about
attacks on DOD networks.
Air Force Gen. Kevin Chilton, commander of U.S. Strategic Command, told
lawmakers last week that his office is working with the Joint Task Force
for Global Network Operations, the Joint Functional Component Command
for Network Warfare and the Joint Staff to develop the National Military
Strategy for Cyberspace Operations.
In this role, we coordinate and execute operations to defend the Global
Information Grid and project power in support of national interests,
Chilton said. The Defense Department must also plan and train to operate
the GIG while under attack. Stratcom is actively planning and executing
operations to detect and counter attacks on the GIG while coordinating
responses with other DOD and interagency elements.
He added that cyberspace is the least mature domain and his command must
define, shape, develop and deliver a quality cyber force. That includes
training employees to conduct network warfare, Chilton said.
Michael Vickers, assistant secretary of Defense for special operations,
low-intensity conflict and interdependent capabilities, said at the same
hearing that although the military is developing deterrence strategies,
officials are also working governmentwide to define the cyber domain so
they can better understand the scope of the missions they will be asked
We recognize that this will be a long-term effort, and while much
remains to be done in this area, we are making progress, he said.
Paller added that this hearing and others are strong signs that
lawmakers understand the cyberwarfare risk and want to address it.
No one in positions of power is not talking about supporting massive
investments, Paller said. There need to be discussions about privacy and
some feasibility issues, but no one is saying dont do it.
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