Information Warfare: The Secret Cyber War


June 19, 2007: Why has the U.S. Navy increased its Internet defense force from 200 sailors, to 15,000, in the past three years? Mainly fear. The navy is now spending nearly a billion dollars a year to defend its computers from attack. The navy has 760,000 active duty, reserve and civilian computer users, operating at 300 bases in sixteen countries. Every major warship has networks, and aircraft are being equipped with communications and computer gear that enables them to form networks in the sky, and with army units on the ground, and air force warplanes. All of this stuff in increasingly being infiltrated by spies and vandals.

The U.S. Department of Defense has noted the increasing number of hackers trying, and succeeding, to get into military networks. This sort of thing has been going on since the 1980s, when a gang of West German hackers, hired by the Soviet secret police (KGB) were caught inside Department of Defense networks, stealing classified data. But in the last few years, the hacker activity has accelerated. Currently, Department of Defense networks get probed six million times a day. Since last year there has been a 46 percent increase in attacks on Department of Defense web sites. There has been 28 percent more email based attacks. These are increasingly targeted at specific types of military users, or even individuals. There were more than twice as many attempts to insert viruses, worms and Trojan horse software on military systems. The attackers are looking for information, or secret control of, or at least access, to military systems. Some of the attacks have been massive and well organized. There have been at least four of these major attacks in the last year, hitting targets like the National Defense University, the Naval War College and Fort Hood. Each of these cost $20-30 million to clean up after.

The Department of Defense has 11 million Internet users, five million PCs and 12,000 networks, and is the largest Internet user on the planet. All the services are scrambling to get their Cyber War defenses strengthened. The U.S. Air Force is trying to establish itself as the primary Cyber War organization in the Department of Defense. To that end, it is advocating more offensive Cyber War. Apparently there has already been some offensive operations, but no one is giving out any details about when, how, and who the target(s) was. The army and air force have been seeking better weapons from commercial firms, which is how knowledge of the offensive weapons got out.


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