September 24, 2010

White House Boosting Cyber Attack Defenses

A top general said Thursday that the White House is boosting the authority of the U.S. military and other agencies in order to try and protect the infrastructure from cyber attacks.

General Keith Alexander said that the U.S. Cyber Command has the responsibility of safeguarding military networks and not commercial power grids or banking computer networks.

"It is not my mission to defend, today, the entire nation," Alexander told the House Armed Services Committee. "Our mission in Cyber Command is to defend the Defense Department networks."

But he added: "I think this is what the White House, congressman, is actually looking at."

He said that in figuring out how to defend against attacks on digital infrastructure, the White House is weighing strategy, legal authorities and the proper role for the military, the Department of Homeland Security, the FBI and other agencies.

Under review is, "What are the authorities, what do we have legally, and then given that, what do we have to come back to Congress and reshape or mold for authorities to operate in cyberspace."

Alexander leads the secretive National Security Agency, which runs extensive eavesdropping and electronic spying efforts.

He told reported on Wednesday that he supported the idea of sealing off critical networks, including the electricity grid, in a "secure" zone separate from the rest of the Internet.

He said that this type of approach "makes a lot of sense."

Deputy Defense Secretary William Lynn called for a "government-sponsored security regime" earlier this year that could serve "operators of critical infrastructure."

Lynn warned that "individual users who do not want to enroll could stay in the wild wild west of the unprotected Internet."

The new Cyber Command is expected to become operational by October 1 with a $120 million budget.


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