DOD, Industry Address ‘Intense Challenge’ of Cyber Security

ARLINGTON, Va., Nov. 7, 2011 — Senior Defense Depart­ment offi­cials and mem­bers of the infor­ma­tion tech­nol­o­gy indus­try met here today to dis­cuss how to bet­ter pro­tect mil­i­tary and com­mer­cial cyber­space.

The poten­tial capa­bil­i­ty for cyber may­hem makes cyber secu­ri­ty “one of the most intense chal­lenges of our time,” Regi­na E. Dugan, direc­tor of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, told hun­dreds of audi­ence mem­bers who gath­ered at a hotel here for DARPA’s one-day “Cyber Col­lo­qui­um.”

The Inter­net has fueled advance­ments and oppor­tu­ni­ties in busi­ness, med­i­cine and oth­er spheres, said Army Gen. Kei­th B. Alexan­der, com­man­der of U.S. Cyber Com­mand and direc­tor of the Nation­al Secu­ri­ty Agency on Fort Meade, Md.. How­ev­er, he added, pro­tect­ing net­works from infor­ma­tion theft or attack by hack­ers is a big job.

“When you look at the vul­ner­a­bil­i­ties that we face in this area, it’s extra­or­di­nary,” Alexan­der said. Gov­ern­ment and com­mer­cial net­works world­wide have expe­ri­enced repeat­ed assault by hack­ers over the past sev­er­al years, he not­ed.

“What we see is a dis­turb­ing trend, from exploita­tion to dis­rup­tion to destruc­tion,” Alexan­der said.

DOD views cyber­space as a domain such as air, land, sea and space, the gen­er­al said. New and bet­ter ways must be devel­oped in part­ner­ship with pri­vate indus­try to defend the nation’s mil­i­tary and com­mer­cial infor­ma­tion net­works, he said.

First, the Defense Depart­ment is look­ing at cre­at­ing spe­cial “hunter teams” to active­ly look for com­put­er virus­es and mal­ware, Alexan­der said. Such teams, he added, would be part of “a dynam­ic” perime­ter-defense net­work.

DOD also can do more, he �said, to part­ner with pri­vate indus­try, as well as allies, to pro­tect the cyber realm.

Anoth­er change that would upgrade the military’s cyber defense and save mon­ey, Alexan­der �said, is adapt­ing cloud com­put­ing plat­forms. In cloud com­put­ing, appli­ca­tions are accessed from Inter­net web browsers rather than being installed on each indi­vid­ual com­put­er serv­er. Remote servers are used to store orga­ni­za­tion­al data and infor­ma­tion.

“It’s eas­i­er to secure the cloud … [and] it’s cheap­er,” he said, not­ing a test pro­gram demon­strates poten­tial DOD infor­ma­tion tech­nol­o­gy sav­ings of 30 per­cent by using the cloud net­work sys­tem.

The Internet’s birth 40 years ago cre­at­ed both great oppor­tu­ni­ties and risks for soci­ety, said Dugan, not­ing that DARPA was heav­i­ly involved in its cre­ation.

Today, peo­ple around the globe rely on the Inter­net for com­mu­ni­ca­tion, infor­ma­tion, com­merce and enter­tain­ment pur­pos­es, she said.

How­ev­er, cyber crim­i­nals steal infor­ma­tion worth mil­lions of dol­lars from busi­ness­es world­wide each year, Dugan said. In fact, she added, 2004 marked the first time that pro­ceeds from cyber crime exceed­ed prof­its made from the sale of ille­gal drugs.

“Mali­cious cyber attacks are not mere­ly an exis­ten­tial threat to our bits and bytes,” Dugan said. “They are a real threat to an increas­ing­ly large num­ber of sys­tems that we inter­act with dai­ly, from the pow­er grid to our finan­cial sys­tems to our auto­mo­biles and our mil­i­tary sys­tems.”

For­mer Deputy Defense Sec­re­tary �William J. Lynn III said on Sept. 28 that cyber attacks would become a sig­nif­i­cant com­po­nent of future con­flicts and that more than 30 nations are cre­at­ing cyber units in their mil­i­taries, Dugan said.

Lynn added that it would be unre­al­is­tic to think that these nations would con­fine their cyber capa­bil­i­ties to only defen­sive pur­pos­es, she said.

Today, a con­nect­ed, moti­vat­ed group oper­at­ing through the Inter­net can accom­plish tasks in a fright­ful­ly short peri­od of time, Dugan said.

Accord­ing­ly, Dugan said, in the fis­cal year 2012 bud­get sub­mis­sion, DARPA increased its cyber threat research bud­get by $88 mil­lion.

“And over the next five years our pro­posed invest­ment in cyber research will grow steadi­ly, from 8 to 12 per­cent of our top line,” she added.

In com­ing years, she said, DARPA will focus an increas­ing por­tion of its cyber research on the inves­ti­ga­tion of offen­sive [cyber] capa­bil­i­ties to address mil­i­tary-spe­cif­ic needs.

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs)