USA — Lynn Outlines Cyber Threats, Defensive Measures

WASHINGTON — An infect­ed flash dri­ve insert­ed into a Defense Depart­ment com­put­er in 2008 caused “a sig­nif­i­cant com­pro­mise” of the department’s clas­si­fied com­put­er net­works and was a “wake-up call” for Pen­ta­gon offi­cials to expe­dite cyber defense mea­sures, the deputy sec­re­tary of defense revealed in a new mag­a­zine arti­cle.

The pre­vi­ous­ly clas­si­fied inci­dent caused the most sig­nif­i­cant breach ever to U.S. mil­i­tary com­put­ers, William J. Lynn III wrote for an arti­cle appear­ing in the September/October issue of For­eign Affairs mag­a­zine.

Titled “Defend­ing a New Domain,” the arti­cle out­lines the evo­lu­tion of com­put­er net­work threats and mea­sures the depart­ment has put into place to deal with them. The fre­quen­cy and sophis­ti­ca­tion of intru­sions into U.S. mil­i­tary net­works have increased expo­nen­tial­ly in the past 10 years, Lynn wrote. They now are probed thou­sands of times and scanned mil­lions of times, every day, he added.

Some­times the adver­saries are suc­cess­ful, Lynn said, and they have acquired thou­sands of files from Defense Depart­ment net­works and those of the Pentagon’s indus­try part­ners and U.S. allies, includ­ing weapons blue­prints, oper­a­tional plans and sur­veil­lance data.

To counter the threat, the Pen­ta­gon has built “lay­ered and robust defens­es” around mil­i­tary net­works and cre­at­ed the new U.S. Cyber Com­mand to inte­grate process­es, Lynn said. Depart­ment offi­cials are work­ing with their coun­ter­parts at the Home­land Secu­ri­ty Depart­ment, which has juris­dic­tion over the “dot-com” and “dot-gov” domains, to pro­tect the net­works.

The Defense Depart­ment has 15,000 net­works and 7 mil­lion com­put­ing devices in use in dozens of coun­tries, with 90,000 peo­ple work­ing to main­tain them, Lynn said, and it depends heav­i­ly on com­mer­cial indus­try for its net­work oper­a­tions.

“Infor­ma­tion tech­nol­o­gy enables almost every­thing the U.S. mil­i­tary does,” Lynn wrote, from logis­ti­cal sup­port and com­mand and con­trol to real-time intel­li­gence and remote oper­a­tions. Any future con­flict will include cyber­se­cu­ri­ty, he has said.

In his arti­cle, Lynn out­lines five pil­lars of the department’s emerg­ing cyber­se­cu­ri­ty pol­i­cy:

— Cyber must be rec­og­nized as a war­fare domain equal to land, sea, and air;

— Any defen­sive pos­ture must go beyond “good hygiene” to include sophis­ti­cat­ed and accu­rate oper­a­tions that allow rapid response;

— Cyber defens­es must reach beyond the department’s dot-mil world into com­mer­cial net­works, as gov­erned by Home­land Secu­ri­ty;

— Cyber defens­es must be pur­sued with inter­na­tion­al allies for an effec­tive “shared warn­ing” of threats; and

— The Defense Depart­ment must help to main­tain and lever­age U.S. tech­no­log­i­cal dom­i­nance and improve the acqui­si­tions process to keep up with the speed and agili­ty of the infor­ma­tion tech­nol­o­gy indus­try.

Pen­ta­gon offi­cials are devel­op­ing a cyber strat­e­gy doc­u­ment to be released in the fall. It will address, among oth­er things, any statu­to­ry changes need­ed for cyber defense, and the capa­bil­i­ty for “auto­mat­ed defens­es,” such as the abil­i­ty block mal­ware at top speed, Lynn has said.

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

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