Inside the cyber war rooms


It may not look like a battleground, but behind the walls at the Air Force Office of Special Investigations are the front lines in the booming cyber war against hackers driven to disrupt - even destroy - vital U.S. military networks and investigators intent on protecting them.

"What we want to do is protect the way we do business, protect the Air Force, and protect our country from this kind of harm," Brigadier General Dana Simmons said.

At the Air Force Office of Special Investigations, agents identify and attempt to neutralize criminal, terrorist and espionage computer threats of every kind, reports CBS News chief investigative correspondent Armen Keteyian. They have 11 field offices around the world.

Using brains and bytes, agents like Paul Alvarez play a high-tech game of cat and mouse - running traces, tracking IP address, assessing damage, plugging security holes in the network by erasing viruses and fixing programs and searching for the source of nameless, faceless intruders. There are thousands of attempts every day.

"We basically peel the onion layers back to find out where the core attack came from," Alvarez said. "We call them hot points. We'll chase them from computer to computer to end point to find out who really did it."

Peeling the onion back through all the zombie machines used by the attackers is the real challenge. Finding a way to automate that process and counter attack is the real challenge for cyber warfare.

If the attackers are successful they could shut down missile systems as well as defense systems and our total electric grid. That is why the new cyber command has some real work ahead of it.


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