US creates military command for cyber battlefield

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The US military announced a new "cyber command" designed to wage digital warfare and to bolster defenses against mounting threats to its computer networks.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates formally established the command -- the country's first -- that would operate under US Strategic Command, Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman said.

The command will begin operating in October and be fully operational in October 2010, Whitman said.

The move reflects a shift in military strategy with "cyber dominance" now part of US war doctrine and comes amid growing alarm over the perceived threat posed by digital espionage coming from China, Russia and elsewhere.

US officials say China has built up a sophisticated cyber warfare program and that a spate of intrusions in the United States and elsewhere can be traced back to Chinese sources.

The officer widely expected to lead the command is Lieutenant General Keith Alexander, the director of the super-secret National Security Agency (NSA).

Alexander has described cyberspace as the new military frontier that could shape the future of national security, comparing it to sea or air power.

But some analysts have raised concerns that a more aggresssive approach to cyber security poses a possible threat to privacy and civil liberties as well as potential diplomatic dilemmas.

The Defense Department said the command would streamline various cyber efforts across the armed forces and would not amount to a "militarization of cyberspace."

Officials have said the command would likely be located at Fort Meade, Maryland and that the Pentagon would not be taking over security efforts for civilian networks from other government agencies.

The US military relies on 15,000 networks and about seven million computers, with more than 100 foreign intelligence agencies trying to hack into US networks, according to Deputy Defense Secretary William Lynn.

"Our defense networks are constantly under attack," Lynn said in a speech last week.

"They are probed thousands of times a day. They are scanned millions of times a day. And the frequency and sophistication of attacks are increasing exponentially," he said.

The threat ranges from teenage hackers to criminal gangs acting as cyber mercenaries to foreign governments, Lynn said.

Lynn cited cyberattacks that shut down Georgia?s government and commercial web sites during Russia's military incursion last year.

Defense officials have said the cyber command would focus on security efforts along with offensive capabilities to ensure "freedom of action in cyberspace" for the United States.

The precise details of US cyber military power remain secret, but it includes technology capable of penetrating and jamming networks, including the classified Suter airborne system, analysts say.

The technology has been reportedly added to unmanned aircraft and allows for users to take over and manipulate enemy sensors.

Reported breaches of the US electricity grid and of networks used by aerospace contractors building the F-35 fighter jet have underlined concerns over cyber security.

Last year, several thousand computers in the Defense Department were infected by malicious software, prompting the military to ban troops and civilian staff from using external memory devices and thumb drives.

In the proposed defense budget for fiscal 2010, the administration has proposed increasing funds for training to triple the number of cyber security experts from 80 to 250 per year.

President Barack Obama has put a top priority on cyber security and announced plans for a national cyber defense coordinator. continues here

New cyber chief to protect against computer attacks

Prime Minister creates security post after warnings of electronic espionage

The Prime Minister's move comes amid fears that the computer systems of government and business are vulnerable to online attack from hostile countries and terrorist organisations.

Neil Thompson, a senior civil servant, will be charged with protecting the national computer network.

Last month, President Barack Obama said he was making it a "national security priority" to protect the US computer network from attack and that he would set up a "cyber security office" in the White House to lead the counter-attack against hackers.

Mr Brown's plans were endorsed by the Cabinet yesterday after a presentation by Lord West of Spithead, the Security minister. Concern has grown in Whitehall that hackers are targeting its computer systems and those of Britain's largest companies.

Officials have said the biggest threat comes from China, but they have also expressed worries about the activities of criminal gangs based in Russia.

There are also fears that terrorists could switch to online attacks to try to cripple the national infrastructure.

Britain has discussed ways of boosting computer security with foreign allies including the US. President Obama said that terrorist attacks could come "not only from a few extremists in suicide vests, but from a few key strokes of a computer – a weapon of mass disruption".

British security representatives have been observing cyberspace procedure used by the Americans. They include how US forces lured senior members of al-Qa'ida into a trap by hacking into the group's computers and altering information that drove them into an ambush by US and British special forces in Anbar province in the middle of last year. Defence sources say that the Americans are moving cyber-warfare equipment into Afghanistan. The technology was used to block Taliban anti-aircraft defences.

According to security sources the US has commissioned research to study what it will take to close down enemy power stations and communications including air transport. The American authorities have barred Chinese companies from taking part in joint projects with its firms on a number of sensitive projects, something, it is claimed, the British have failed to do.

The security services have warned recently of renewed activities by Russian and Chinese intelligence in cyberspace research with the potential to interfere with communications in the UK. Four years ago, the Government issued a formal warning to Whitehall departments and business that they faced "trojan email" attacks from the Far East on an "almost industrial" scale.

Last August, the Government's first national risk register also highlighted Britain's vulnerability by cyber spies. It said: "The UK does remain subject to high levels of covert non-military activity by foreign intelligence organisations. They are increasingly combining traditional intelligence methods with new technical attacks, for example attempting to penetrate computer networks via the internet." continues here

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