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article imageCYBERCOM - US military’s online watchdog quiet startup

By Paul Wallis     May 30, 2010 in Internet
CYBERCOM started this week with a blaze of under-publicity. The new organization’s role is looking conscientiously under-defined in the best traditions of military non-disclosure. Pretty appropriate for a security outfit, but generating speculation.
The current status of CYBERCOM is as a preliminary upgrade/streamline of existing Strategic Command capacities into one command. CYBERCOM is part of the Department of Defense, and its general structure looks like an all round initiative. The need for a national approach to internet security and cyber warfare has been flagged by DoD and the administration for some time.
It’s long been argued that cyber warfare is the new horizon of war. Many recent reports about massive attacks on Federal agencies and the emerging cyber warfare scenarios have also forced development of new security measures by the National Security Agency.
Recent cyber attacks on national and corporate installations have been extremely successful, notably the attacks on Google’s China operation and Lithuania. These situations, combined with almost hourly attacks by hackers on the Pentagon and other sensitive areas, have had alarm bells ringing in Washington for a while.
The third dimension in CYBERCOM’s carefully understated brief is naturally military operations. Military analysts around the world have for years been working on ways of crashing communications systems, and the need for fixes has become a natural priority.
This includes such factors as:
1. How do you stop a botnet attack by a few million hijacked computers?
2. What happens if your missile network is full of subverted computers?
3. What if your servers go nuts?
4. Can you be sure of combat communications security?
It’s an endless list. CYBERCOM is definitely not likely to be a rest home. The current establishment strength is expected to nearly double in the foreseeable future. All four services have teams at CYBERCOM, which will allow some cross pollination of ideas, as well as the obvious administrative benefits.
Even less clearly laid out as a role for CYBERCOM, WIRED also reports that there’s also a role for CYBERCOM in the Homeland Security zone, working with civilian networks to speed up military responses to emergencies inside the US. This proposition is stated to be a natural general-purpose security, emergency and communications interface.
There have been some reservations expressed by civil libertarians about yet another government online monitor. However, in this case it’s doubtful if CYBERCOM has any practical role in the “intrusion industry”. CYBERCOM's resources are apparently fully committed to its core role, and it'd be a significant level of duplication of existing security operations.
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