US Navy Gears Up for Cyberwarfare

The U.S. Fleet Cyber Command, part of the U.S. 10th Fleet, is developing a strategy for modernizing its cyberoperations and transforming the Navy’s network into a cyberwarfare platform, C4ISRNetworks reported earlier this month.

The strategy will seek to advance five key goals:

  • Operating the Navy network as a warfighting platform;
  • Conducting tailored signals intelligence (SIGINT);
  • Conducting offensive operations in cyberspace;
  • Expanding cybersituational awareness; and
  • Launching Navy cyberforces — essentially teams of cyberexperts who will conduct cyberwarfare. The Navy has 40 teams under development.

The need for a stronger cybersecurity approach has been underlined by the penetration of U.S. government networks by hackers, the most recent of which was an attack on unsecured White House computers, which the U.S. government has blamed on Russia.

“I do not think cyberwarfare … is the best option,” said Richard Blech, CEO and cofounder of Secure Channels.

It’s better to remove the reason for attacks by making the data unusable, he told TechNewsWorld.

“Why would a hacker expend time and resources and risk arrest for data that will be unusable if the hack is successful?” Blech asked.

What the Navy Plans

Operating the Navy network as a warfighting platform requires command-and-control across all networks, on shore and at sea, and across different technical environments, Fleet Cyber Command CIO Kevin Cooley said.

That would require balancing cost savings against defense, influencing the programming, budgeting and acquisition process.

If the Navy were able to keep a tight hand on the purse strings, then could it actually develop the kind of defensive capabilities needed, especially in a warfighting context?

“Take out the word ‘warfighting,’ and this is the same dilemma that every organization faces today,” observed John Gunn, vice president, corporate communications, at Vasco Data Security.

Expanding cybersituational awareness will require cooperation with the private sector, which can offer visualization and analytics technology as well as experience, systems and data strategies, Cooley pointed out.

Private companies likely would be part of the DoD’s Defense Industrial Base, first piloted in 2011.

How much defense contractors actually can contribute is questionable. The AntiSec hackers’ movement in 2011 broke into Booz Allen Hamilton’s servers, and stole and published 90,000 military usernames from its servers. It also stole and published 1 GB of private emails and documents of Vanguard Defense Industries senior vice president Richard Garcia.

“Even Mike Tyson got knocked out,” noted Vasco’s Gunn.

However, “he was still … nobody you wanted to be on the wrong side of,” he told TechNewsWorld.

Crime and Punishment

The notion of cyberwar may not be a bad thing, as not responding to hacks on government systems makes the U.S. look weak.

The Defense Department has been working on the idea of retaliation for hacks for some years.Then-deputy secretary of defense William Lynn in 2011 gave a speech outlining the DoD’s strategy for operating in cyberspace.

The DoD’s approach consists of five strategic initiatives developed as part of the Comprehensive National Cybersecurity Initiative.

Among other things, the CNCI considers cyberspace an operational domain in land, sea, air and space.

In line with this, U.S. defense officials previously have floated the idea of launching targeted physical attacks in retaliation for cyberattacks on computer systems and networks.

“Cyberwarfare can be an effective deterrent in two ways,” Gunn suggested. “It can make our assets less attractive for fear of retaliation — and used in a preemptive manner, it could potentially be used to interrupt or detect hacker threats in process to decrease their effectiveness.”

It’s difficult to fully rely on a network after it’s been compromised.

“Once an attacker gets into your systems, it can be difficult to get them out,” Tripwire CTO Dwayne Melancon told TechNewsWorld, “particularly when your network and internal security controls allow the attacker to move around on your network without being noticed.”

Richard Adhikari

Richard Adhikari has written about high-tech for leading industry publications since the 1990s and wonders where it's all leading to. Will implanted RFID chips in humans be the Mark of the Beast? Will nanotech solve our coming food crisis? Does Sturgeon's Law still hold true? You can connect with Richard on Google+.

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