DoD Plans Comprehensive Cyber Security Strategy

Thursday, April 21, 2011



The Department of Defense will soon introduce a comprehensive cyber strategy that will officially designate cyberspace as domain of warfare on par with land, sea and air arenas of operation.

Despite continued debate by leading security experts as to whether the concept of "cyber warfare" and the associated terminology appropriately describes military actions conducted in an electronic medium, the Pentagon is moving forward with a declaration that cyberspace will be considered an operational domain akin to any in the physical world.

“We are collectively vulnerable to an array of threats ranging from network instability to criminal and terrorist activities to state-sponsored capabilities and actions that are progressing from exploitation to disruption to destruction,” said Gen. Keith Alexander, head of U.S. Cyber Command, during testimony before Congress in March.

Though the Pentagon has not directly issued statements on the strategy, Deputy Secretary of Defense William Lynn is reported to have referenced it briefly during his keynote speech at the RSA conference in February.

The strategy will also seek to bolster:

  • “Active defense” systems for military networks. The systems use “sensors, software and signatures derived from intelligence to stop malicious code before it succeeds.”
  • Planning and coordination with the Department of Homeland Security. This will ensure that critical civilian infrastructure on which the military also relies is safe from cyber attacks.
  • Commitment from the Pentagon to work with allies to build international network defenses.
  • A public-private partnership to secure networks.

While the Defense Department is leading the charge to enhance cyber security capabilities nationally, currently the DoD is only authorized to defend military systems. The brunt of the burden for defending other government systems and the public sector rests with the Department of Homeland Security.

The pentagon is currently working with Congress and the White House to examine how to legally adjust their operational latitude with regards to cyber defense without upsetting civil libertarians and the balance of power between the military and civilian authorities.

“Who is the country going to turn to in a cyberattack against the [Federal Aviation Administration] radar system? It’s going to fall to the military because they’re the most capable and that’s what the public will demand," said retired Rear Adm. Edward Masso, a cybersecurity researcher at the Potomac Institute for Policy Studies.


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