Deputy Secretary of Defense William J. Lynn, III announced on July 14, 2011 that in the wake of a massive hacking incident that resulted in the loss of over 24,000 sensitive files from a Department of Defense contractor internal network, any major cyber intrusion incident affecting the vital interests of the nation can be considered an act of war and could result in a conventional military answer. This, says Lynn, does not represent a willful attempt on the part of the United States to militarize cyberspace, but to confront a reality: rogue nations, terrorists, and adversarial hackers have been attacking US cyberinfrastructure for some time. A defensive posture is not sufficient to meet this challenge:
To prepare our military for emerging cyber threats, we have developed a DoD Cyber Strategy. This strategy holds that our posture in cyberspace must mirror the posture we assume to provide security for our nation overall. Namely, our first goal is to prevent war. We do this in part by preparing for it. And we do so while acknowledging and protecting the basic freedoms of our citizens.
The steps we have taken to respond to the cyber threat has prompted discussion in recent weeks about “cyber-war” and its implications. As we release the DoD Cyber Strategy, it is important to address this topic head on.
Commentators have asked whether and how the U.S. would respond militarily to attacks on our networks. And this speculation has prompted concerns that cyberspace is at risk of being militarized—that a domain overwhelmingly used by civilians and for peaceful purposes could be fundamentally altered by the military’s efforts to defend it. The concern here, as in other areas of our security, is that the measures put in place to prevent hostile actions will negate the very benefits of cyberspace we seek to protect.
We have designed our DoD Cyber Strategy to address this concern.
The strategy has five pillars
First, as a doctrinal matter, the Defense Department is treating cyberspace as an operational domain, like land, air, sea, and space. Treating cyberspace as a domain means that the military needs to operate and defend its networks, and to organize, train, and equip our forces to perform cyber missions.
Second, we are introducing new operating concepts on our networks, including active cyber defenses. These active defenses use sensors, software, and signatures to detect and stop malicious code before it affects our operations—thereby denying the benefit of an attack.
The third and fourth pillars of our strategy recognize the interconnectedness of cyberspace and the diversity of uses to which it is put, by individuals, in our economies, and across nations. Because cyberspace is composed of many interwoven networks that perform many different functions, ensuring its peaceful use will require efforts on many fronts. The men and women of the military, other government agencies, our allies, the private sector, and indeed, the citizens of cyberspace must all play a role.
The third pillar specifically recognizes that a number of non-military networks support important military functions. This is especially true when it comes to the power grid, transportation system, and financial sector. So to protect our military capability, we must work with the Department of Homeland Security and the private sector to protect the nation’s critical infrastructure. [inserted from a few paragraph below: Ninety-nine percent of the electricity the U.S. military uses comes from civilian sources. Ninety percent of U.S. military voice and internet communications travel over the same private networks that service homes and offices.]
Our fourth pillar carries this logic of interconnectedness to our allies and international partners. Our goal with them is to build collective cyber defenses. Collective cyber defenses will help expand our awareness of malicious activity and speed our ability to defend against ongoing attacks.
Fifth, our strategy aims to fundamentally shift the technological landscape of cyber security. Simply put, we want to enhance network security to reduce the advantages the attacker presently enjoys relative to the defender on the internet. Leveraging the nation’s technological and human resources to increase the security of network technology is not only in our best interest. A more secure and resilient internet is in everyone’s interest.
The more intriguing of the four points is the last: denying the attacker the benefits of the “veil of ignorance” and the presumption of benevolence the early designers of the Internet presumed. Since, as already mentioned, 99% of the electricity that fuels the military comes from civilian sources, it is imperative to harden the power grid accordingly.
Toward that end, the Department of Defense, in partnership with DHS, has established a pilot program with a handful of defense companies. This program provides these companies with more robust protection for their networks. In this Defense Industrial Base—or DIB—Cyber Pilot, classified threat intelligence is shared with defense contractors or their commercial internet service providers along with the know-how to employ it in network defense. By furnishing this threat intelligence, we are able to help strengthen these companies’ existing cyber defenses.
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