From the Homeland Security News Wire:
The Department of Defense is planning an expansion of the U.S. Cyber Command, and the Pentagon plans on recruiting thousands of code crackers, online security professionals, and hackers in order to assemble the nation’s largest cyber army ever.
The Washington Post reports the command will include an additional 4,000 troops and civilians to help with the increasing cyber threats to the United States.
“Given the malicious actors that are out there and the development of the technology, in my mind, there’s little doubt that some adversary is going to attempt a significant cyber-attack on the United States at some point,” William J. Lynn III, a former deputy defense secretary who helped fashion the Pentagon’s cyber security strategy, told the Post.
“The only question is whether we’re going to take the necessary steps like this one to deflect the impact of the attack in advance or… read about the steps we should have taken in some post-attack commission report,” he added.
A Pentagon official told Foreign Policy magazine that the program still has some obstacles to overcome.
“There is no doubt that we will expand our [cyber] forces; everyone is on the same page with that,” another official told Globalpost. “Exactly what the figures are, what they’re called, and their precise makeup, that does remain to be seen. So in concept yes, we’re expanding it. Has it happened on paper yet? No.”
In order to find the best and the brightest in the country, Pentagon officials and defense contractors have set up cyber camps, competitions, scholarships, and internships for high school and college students. The Pentagon has also started training programs for veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan.
The DOD wants to train cyber soldiers as a way to address the shortage of personnel with the training and knowledge to fight in the digital battlefield. According to the Huffington Post, part of the recruiting will focus on hiring hackers, especially at global hacker conference such as DefCon, where U.S. officials scout some of the world’s most prolific hackers.
The first divisions of cyber soldiers will focus on cyber defense as well as attacking the enemy’s defenses to bring down guided weapons, munitions, and other electronic equipment.
The combat mission forces, one of the three divisions of Cyber Command will launch cyber-attacks alongside traditional military offensives.
“This new class of cyber warrior would be responsible for penetrating the machines behind identified attack sources, installing spyware to monitor connections to those machines, and following the trail back to the desktop of the attacker. They would have to research and exploit vulnerabilities, craft malware, operate honey pots, and even engage in targeted Denial of Service attacks,” Richard Stiennon, chief research analyst at IT-Harvest, told GlobalPost.
The national mission forces will protect network and systems that protect the country’s electricity infrastructure. The cyber protection forces will focus only on securing networks and systems operated by the DOD.
Many of these cyber warriors will not need their IT experts to be deployed on the front lines.
“The Pentagon has a very broad definition of ‘cyber’ and there is often confusion over the difference between an IT security administrator and a cyber warrior,” Stiennon told Globalpost.
“Since the Pentagon employs over 2 million people and probably is responsible for a million desktops, servers, and routers it is easy to understand that they could employ an additional 4,000 people to maintain those devices just from a patch management and security administration standpoint,” Stiennon added.
Late last year, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta warned that the United States was facing a “cyber-Pearl Harbor” as the country grew increasingly vulnerable to cyber-attacks. The right cyber-attack could derail the nation’s power grid, financial networks, government systems and transportation infrastructure.
“An aggressor nation or extremist group could use these kinds of cyber tools to gain control of critical switches,” Panetta said.
“They could derail passenger trains, or even more dangerous, derail passenger trains loaded with lethal chemicals. They could contaminate the water supply in major cities, or shut down the power grid across large parts of the country.”