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Wednesday, January 30, 2013

US to dramatically expand Cyber Command in face of defence cuts


Although US policy makers may be discussing ways of cutting the US military, the Department of Defence intends to increase the size of the Cyber Command dramatically over the next few years.
Scott Borg, director of US Cyber Consequences Unit claims the number of those devoted to cyber security woud be quite small, even when expanded, relative to the size of the US military and also the size of the problem:
"Compared to the size of the American military and of the Pentagon itself, it is a tiny number, and given the importance of cyber security, given the fact that all our defence systems depend upon computers, all of our weapons ... our military operations are completely dependent on computers, devoting fewer than 5,000 people to cyber security seems [like a] very small thing."
Defenders of an expansion plan cite the changed nature of 21st century warfare. They claim that cyber attacks at the behest of governments have been increasing. The US has only recently even admitted to developing cyber weapons. However, the New York Times reported last year that the Obama administration had carried out attacks on computer systems that run the Iranian nuclear programs. The Stuxnet virus that attacked Iran's nuclear program seems to have been developed through Israeli and US cooperation. The US blame Iran for a cyber attack that crashed thousands of computers at the Saudi state oil company Aramco. Many cyber-espionage incidents seem tooriginate in China and it is suspected that the government is involved.
Logo of US Cyber Command
Wikipedia
Logo of US Cyber Command
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Critics of the cyber security expansion plans worry that the programs will be a threat to privacy as well as internet freedom. The National Security Agency and the Pentagon who will oversee the program lack both accountability and oversight according to critics. Guardian columnist Glenn Greenwald writes:
"The US government is the single greatest menace when it comes to aggressive cyber warfare. The United States government along with the Israelis is really the only country to use cyber weapons in a sophisticated and aggressive way, just like it was the only one to use the atomic bomb; and before that it was the only one to use drone warfare so a major part of this expansion is not about protecting businesses from attack ... [but] it is making sure the US government can continue to destroy whomever it wants at will using sophisticated cyber weaponry."
At present, the US Cyber Command, which was set up only in 2010, has only about 900 people. The Washington Post reports that plans are to hire at least 4,000 more people. The Command will have three divisions.
The National Mission Force will work to protect computer systems in the US that run electrical grids and other infrastructure. Combat Mission Forces will help plan and execute cyber attacks. Finally, Cyber Protection Forces will be charged with developing adequate security for the Defense Department itself.
Countries around the world are realizing that a great deal of damage can be done by a very few people with no conventional weapons at all. Ben David an Israeli analyst says:
"If you have a few smart people and a good computer, then you can do a lot. You don't need an aircraft, you don't need tanks, you don't need an army. You can penetrate another country, create huge damage without even leaving your armchair."

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