June 24, 2009

Military Cyber Command Will Protect Against Online Threats

The US military announced on Wednesday a new "cyber command" created to fight digital crime and to increase defenses against rising threats to its computers.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates created the command that will answer to the US Strategic Command, Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman stated.

The headquarters, housed at Fort Meade, Maryland, will be accountable for shielding U.S. military systems only, Whitman said. When inquired about if the command would be offensive as well defensive, Whitman demurred to answer.

"This command is going to focus on the protection and operation of DoD's networks," he said to Reuters News. "This command is going to do what is necessary to be able to do that."

The command will start in October and be completely functional by October 2010, Whitman noted.

The new move shows the change in military policy with "cyber dominance" now a part of the US war doctrine. It debuts with increasing worry over the apparent threat created by digital espionage coming from China, Russia and other places.

US officials say that China has created high-tech cyber warfare programs and that several web disturbances in the US and other places can be connected to Chinese sources.

President Barack Obama announced last month that he would name a White House-level person to direct government attempts to battle cybercrime.

It is widely anticipated that Lieutenant General Keith Alexander, the director of the super-secret National Security Agency (NSA), will lead the efforts.

Alexander has called cyberspace the new military frontier and has also said that it has the potential to form the future of national security.

However, several analysts are worried that a more antagonistic method to cyber security could threaten privacy, civil liberties and diplomacy.

In response, the Defense Department said that they would streamline cyber attempts in the armed forces and would not resort to a "militarization of cyberspace."

The US military depends on 15,000 networks and seven million computers, since 100 foreign intelligence agencies frequently attempt to hack into US networks, stated Deputy Defense Secretary William Lynn.

"Our defense networks are constantly under attack," Lynn said in a speech last week. "They are probed thousands of times a day. They are scanned millions of times a day. And the frequency and sophistication of attacks are increasing exponentially."

"Our defense networks are constantly probed. There are millions of scans every day," Bryan Whitman said to AFP.

"The power to disrupt and destroy, once the sole province of nations, now also rests with small groups and individuals, from terrorist groups to organized crime to industrial spies to hacker activists, to teenage hackers. We also know that foreign governments are trying to develop offensive cyber capabilities," he added.

Lynn referred to a cyberattack that closed down Georgia's government and commercial web sites amidst Russia's military incursion in 2008.

Defense officials insist that the cyber command would concentrate on security with offensive capabilities to guarantee "freedom of action in cyberspace" for the United States.

The specific details of US cyber military power are under lock and key, but it certainly includes technology capable of sneaking in and jamming networks, analysts say.

President Barack Obama has called cyber security a top concern.

A new White House policy review stated: "cybersecurity risks pose some of the most serious economic and national security challenges of the 21st century."

Obama has ensured that privacy would be cautiously guarded even as the government moves increase efforts to defend civilian and military networks.


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