Information Warfare: December 20, 2004


U.S. Department of Defense computer networks were hacked 294 times in 2003, after 54,488 known attempts. This year, it looks like there will be 68,000 attempts. In 2003, for every thousand attempts, 5.4 succeeded. Assuming security was improved somewhat this year, it still looks like as many as 300 successful intrusions this year. The Department of Defense wont say how successful any of these penetrations was. But from intrusions that were reported, and knowledge of how American military networks are set up, most, or all, of these intrusions were on unclassified networks. The most valuable data is in computers that are not connected to the Internet. The military has noted that 90 percent of these attacks could have been easily deflected if users practiced better security. In other words, the biggest vulnerability is the operators and administrators, not the systems themselves. Nevertheless, there is a sense of anxiety and urgency at Strategic Command, which is responsible for military networks, as well as Information War (attacking enemy networks, as well as defending out own). So a new organization has been set up; Joint Task Force-Global Network Operations. This outfit will consist of people from the Army Space and Missile Defense Command; the Air Force, the Naval Network Warfare Command and the Marines. The new task force will try to better coordinate American military activities to defend their networks. 

The military has the same problems civilian Internet users have; constantly evolving software. Every time new software is introduced, there are new flaws, and many of these flaws enable hackers to more easily penetrate networks. Moreover, many network attacks are not detected, nor  are some penetrations. Its another case of what you dont know is likely to hurt you the most. The military also has a problem competing with civilian users for skilled network administrators and technicians. Military pay scales cannot compete. Looming over all this is the possibility of a massive surprise attack on American military networks. It's never happened, but it could. Because of that, no one is sure of what it will take to prevent such an attack, or even carry one out.


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