The Pentagon plans to expand its cybersecurity force from 900 personnel to 4,900 troops and civilians over the new several years, Ellen Nakashima of The Washington Post reports.
The expansion reflects the need to address vulnerabilities in U.S. cyber infrastructure as well as the desire of the Defense Department’s Cyber Command to build its offensive capabilities.
From The Post:
The plan calls for the creation of three types of forces under the Cyber Command: “national mission forces” to protect computer systems that undergird electrical grids, power plants and other infrastructure deemed critical to national and economic security; “combat mission forces” to help commanders abroad plan and execute attacks or other offensive operations; and“cyber protection forces” to fortify the Defense Department’s networks.
Earlier this month BBC reported that the U.S. told thousands of companies to beef up protection of computers which oversee power plants and other utilities after security researchers found more than 500,000 potential targets fo cyber attacks. BBC also reported that two U.S. power plants were hit with malware attacks in 2012.
Nakashima previously reported that major U.S. banks have asked the National Security Agency (NSA) for help protecting their computer systems after hackers, suspected to be Iranian, disrupted bank websites for months.
The national mission forces would address these defensive concerns, while the combat mission forces would be involved with the increasing use of cyberattacks to precede physical attacks.
Marines have been conducting cyberattacks in Afghanistan for years. In March Gen. Keith Alexander, chief of both the NSA and U.S. Cyber Command (CYBERCOM), announced the plan to have teams in various regions of the world to focus on foreign foes such as China or Iran.
The cyber protection forces would presumably deal with events such as the recent attacks on U.S. government websites by Anonymous.
Over the weekend hackers took background control of multiple .gov sites as they turned the U.S. Sentencing Commission website and the U.S. Probation Office for the state of Michigan website into games of asteroids to protest the aggressive prosecution of hackivist Aaron Swartz, who recently committed suicide.
In June Obama administration officials admitted that highly-effective cyberattacks against Iran were executed by the NSA and Israel while acknowledging that employing cyberweapons “could enable other countries, terrorists or hackers to justify their own attacks.”
The Justice Department is now looking to prosecute those high-level leakers.