The Pentagon's new cyber war plans

NY Times:

The Pentagon plans to create a new military command for cyberspace, administration officials said Thursday, stepping up preparations by the armed forces to conduct both offensive and defensive computer warfare.

The military command would complement a civilian effort to be announced by President Obama on Friday that would overhaul the way the United States safeguards its computer networks.

Mr. Obama, officials said, will announce the creation of a White House office — reporting to both the National Security Council and the National Economic Council — that will coordinate a multibillion-dollar effort to restrict access to government computers and protect systems that run the stock exchanges, clear global banking transactions and manage the air traffic control system.

White House officials say Mr. Obama has not yet been formally presented with the Pentagon plan. They said he would not discuss it Friday when he announced the creation of a White House office responsible for coordinating private-sector and government defenses against the thousands of cyberattacks mounted against the United States — largely by hackers but sometimes by foreign governments — every day.

But he is expected to sign a classified order in coming weeks that will create the military cybercommand, officials said. It is a recognition that the United States already has a growing number of computer weapons in its arsenal and must prepare strategies for their use — as a deterrent or alongside conventional weapons — in a wide variety of possible future conflicts.

The White House office will be run by a “cyberczar,” but because the position will not have direct access to the president, some experts said it was not high-level enough to end a series of bureaucratic wars that have broken out as billions of dollars have suddenly been allocated to protect against the computer threats.

There is much more.

The threats are both to civilian infrastructure and the military. They are both critical. There have already been attempts to breach the control of the electric grid which if shut down would do enormous economic and military damage. Since so much of the military equipment is computerized, they need both the offensive and defensive capabilities. I have argued before that they need to be able to not only trace the attacks through the zombie networks back to the source, but they also need the capability of destroying the computer system of the attacker. It is my understanding that we do not have this capability now, but we should be working on it.

The debate as to whether the military or NSA should be in charge has not been resolved, but I would tend to put it under the military, but also allow the NSA to go joint with the military commanders in much the same way that the various services work together in Centcom and other areas.

This is already a high priority for potential adversaries and we need to get on top of it.


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