U.S. unprepared for ongoing cyberwar, say top military and intelligence officials

U.S. unprepared for ongoing cyberwar, say top military and intelligence officials
U.S. unprepared for ongoing cyberwar, say top military and intelligence officials 

By Bob Brewin
March 6, 2008

The United States is in the midst of a cyberwar and is not prepared to 
deal with it, top Defense Department and intelligence officials 
acknowledged this week.

"Cyberwarfare is already here.... It's one of our major challenges," 
said Defense Deputy Secretary Gordon England on Monday at the annual 
National Community Service and Legislative Conference of the Veterans of 
Foreign Wars.

"I think cyberattacks are probably analogous to the first time, way back 
when people had bows and arrows and spears," he said. "And somebody 
showed up with gunpowder and everybody said, 'Wow. What was that?'"

England made his comments the same day that the Pentagon released a 
report saying that the 2007 cyberattacks against its networks and those 
operated by other governments around the world "appear" to come from 

During a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing last week, Sen. John 
Thune, D-S.D., asked National Intelligence Director Michael McConnell if 
the United States was prepared to deal with threats against military and 
civil networks and information systems. "We're not prepared to deal with 
it," said McConnell, identifying both China and Russia as adversaries 
who are attempting to penetrate U.S. information systems.

Army Lt. Gen. Michael Maples, director of the Defense Intelligence 
Agency, agreed with McConnell and told the panel that a key threat 
facing this country is the "sophisticated ability of select nations and 
nonstate groups to exploit and perhaps target for attack our computer 

Security experts had warned earlier about the cyberthreats that England 
and McConnell publicly acknowledged this week. In November 2007, Andrew 
Palowitch, a former CIA official who is now an industry consultant to 
the commander of U.S. Strategic Command, declared that the United States 
was "in the midst of a cyberwar" and said there were 37,000 reported 
penetrations of government and private systems in fiscal 2007.

McConnell also told the Senate Armed Services Committee that the ability 
of an enemy to enter information into systems and destroy data in 
financial, power distribution and transportation networks is the other 
threat that "concerns us a great deal."

According to McConnell, U.S. military systems are better protected than 
those operated by civilian agencies or in the private sector. "So the 
question is, how do we take some of the things that we've developed for 
the military side, [and] scale them across the federal government? And 
the key question will be, how do we interact with the private sector?"

The military's capability against cyberattacks and network penetration 
reflects the substantial investment the Defense Information Systems 
Agency has made in information systems security.

DISA has spent $493.3 million from its operations and maintenance 
account on information systems security and assurance in 2007 and 2008, 
including Defensewide secure network access card systems. The agency has 
asked for $316.6 million in its fiscal 2009 budget. In addition, DISA 
spent $69.9 million in procurement funds over the past two years, and 
has asked for an information systems security procurement budget of 
$45.8 million in 2009.

These funds include support for a Computer Emergency Readiness Team 
Coordination Center, and computer systems that include firewalls for 
both classified and unclassified military networks, demilitarized zones 
to isolate Defense systems from the Internet and "honeypot" systems to 
lure attackers to fake networks away from real ones.

The Bush administration plans a $6 billion Comprehensive National 
Cybersecurity Initiative which McConnell testified will beef up network 
and information systems defenses against cyberattacks. DISA requested 
$36 million in its fiscal 2009 budget for the initiative.

The White House has released little information about this cybersecurity 
master plan, but President Bush revealed some details in a Nov. 6, 2007, 
letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., for amendments to his 
fiscal 2008 budgets related to the Homeland Security and Justice 
Departments "which will enhance the security of the government's 
civilian cyber networks and will further address emerging threats."

This request included a $115 million increase in Homeland Security's 
budget for infrastructure protection and information security, from 
$538.2 million to $653.2 million, to enhance cybersecurity 
governmentwide. Bush said the extra money will fund accelerated network 
monitoring for civil agency networks and increased analytical operations 
by computer readiness teams.

Bush also asked for an increase of $39 million in the FBI's 2008 budget 
to support investigation of incursions into government computer 

Subscribe to InfoSec News 

Site design & layout copyright © 1986-2014 CodeGods