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Cybersecurity Poses Significant Challenges for DoD, Government

Implementing cybersecurity measures poses significant challenges for the Department of Defense, the government and for critical infrastructure, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Policy James N. Miller said yesterday.

Miller said cybersecurity “is not a glass half full/glass half empty story.”

“There is a glass,” he said. “It has some water in it. The water is dirty, and we have an insatiable thirst in this area.”

Miller said the issue has the attention of all defense leaders, and progress is being made. Confirmation of Army Lt. Gen. Keith Alexander to receive his fourth star and serve as the first chief of U.S. Cyber Command is a positive step, he added.

Meanwhile, Miller said, the government is working on a cybersecurity strategy that is expected to be released soon. That strategy, he said, must be flexible to address the diverse and growing threats of the future.

As DoD relies heavily on IT with its 15,000 networks and millions of users in 88 countries, adversaries are stealing terabytes of information from the department and government, Miller said. Additionally, threats in the form of DDoS attacks, viruses and worms also belong to the threat landscape.

More than 100 foreign intelligence services are trying to get into DoD systems, Miller said, and some foreign militaries are developing offensive cyber capabilities. Knowing who is delivering them is extremely difficult, he said, and enemies will confront the United States using these cheap, asymmetric tools.

“The linkages between intelligence, offense and defense are particularly important in cyber operations,” he said. “The ability to repel attackers is closely tied to the ability to identify them.”

Miller said a lot of basic work remains to be done in the cybersecurity effort, including determining when a cyber event becomes an attack covered by the law of armed conflict.

“At what point does it rise to such a level that it becomes an act of aggression?” he asked. “Those are legal questions and policy questions we are trying to address.”

Miller said there is a big difference between cyber espionage and acts meant to degrade U.S. networks or to input false data into those networks.

“There is no way we are going to fully defend against cyber espionage,” he said. “And we understand that not everything that happens in cyberspace is an act of war. As we think of the role of cyberspace in supporting military operations, and the role of cyber attacks as … the front-end of a kinetic military attack, then we would think about the potential for responses that are not limited to the cyber domain.”

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