During a recent roundtable with reporters at the National Cryptologic Museum, Cyber Command chief Army Gen. Keith B. Alexander said while the Internet is a tremendous capability, it also is an enormous vulnerability.
“Our intellectual property here is about $5 trillion,” he said. “Of that, approximately $300 billion is stolen over the networks per year.”
Alexander is the first commander of Cybercom, which stood up under U.S. Strategic Command in May, combining Department of Defense’s defensive and offensive cyber arms into one command. The command’s main missions: defend the defense information grid, launch cyber operations on command, and stand prepared to defend the nation’s freedom of action in cyberspace, the general said.
Instead of trying to militarize cyberspace, Cybercom is about safeguarding U.S. military assets, Alexander explained earlier this summer. The command has a budget of $120 million for this year and employs roughly 1,000 military and civilian workers. Included in this is a around-the-clock joint operations center that monitors the grid, detects attacks and neutralizes them. Working with the Air Force, Navy, Army and Marine Corps cyber commands, Cybercom parcels out how to defend the networks and who has responsibility for the specific nets.
Assigning responsibility needs to happen throughout the government, the general said, noting that technology has outpaced policy and law. The government, he added, still is dealing with laws that came out when the nation relied on rotary phones.
Because there is confusion over who does what, the White House is spearheading an effort to sort through the needs of cybersecurity and update the policies and issues, Alexander said. Once the review is finished, Obama must determine how the federal government will be organized to handle this, he added.
Congress is also looking at the problems, and Alexander said he would like to “war-game it and hypothesize what could happen and ensure the policies, laws and authorities allow us to do what people expect us to do.”
The general said he envisions a team handling things in cyberspace. DHS, the FBI, other government agencies and private stakeholders, and Cybercom all have a role, and all of them to collaborate will be a priority for cyber defense, he said.
Alexander said some questions still need to be answered, such as the definition of cyber attacks, how the laws of war apply to operations in cyberspace, and how deterrence looks in cyberspace.