Pentagon Creating Cyber Warfare Command - InformationWeek

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4/22/2009
02:41 PM
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Pentagon Creating Cyber Warfare Command

The Defense Department will unify information security for all the military branches under a command focused on waging cyberwarfare.

On the heels of new reports of hackers breaking into sensitive government systems, the Pentagon plans a military command focused exclusively on cyberwarfare, according to reports.

In interviews, current and former officials confirmed ongoing discussions to create such a command, but were short on details. The Department of Defense had no comment on a Wall Street Journal report that said the command would be headed by a four-star military official and would initially be part of the Pentagon's Strategic Command.

Though information technology has historically been managed separately by each of the military branches, Strategic Command has recently taken over some of the mantle for technology as the military has embarked on its strategy of "net-centric warfare."

"We really have to defend as an enterprise, even if we have to perform as separate entities," one Pentagon cybersecurity official said in an interview. "Now we have Strategic Command standing up and saying, 'We're in charge.' " Recently, the Air Force backed off plans for its own cybersecurity command.

Recent reports said that hackers had stolen terabytes of sensitive -- albeit unclassified -- data on systems that are part of the Air Force's $300 billion Joint Strike Fighter project and accessed the Air Force's air traffic control systems. One former official said hackers have exfiltrated sensitive data on other systems in the past, with at least one notable series of incidents in 2007.

According to reports, the data on the Joint Strike Fighter project was stolen from one of the private military contractors working on the program. The Department of Defense has created a task force to help secure their systems because the insecurity of the systems of Pentagon partners was posing "a serious problem," according to one current official.

Last week, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates testified that the military had spent $100 million on cybersecurity in the last six months alone responding to attacks, which are on the rise. Federal agencies reported to the U.S. Computer Emergency Readiness Team that they had been victims of 18,050 cybersecurity attacks in fiscal 2008, more than triple the number from 2006.

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