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15 July 2011, 10:37

US presents defence strategy for cyberspace

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In the battle against cyberspace attacks, the US is banking on cooperation with foreign countries. In its cyber strategyPDF published on Thursday, the US Department of Defense says it will be setting up "increasingly robust international relations" for "collective self-defense". When presenting the paper, US Deputy Secretary of Defense William Lynn confirmed that the administration fell prey to one of the biggest hacker attacks in its history in March. Foreign perpetrators reportedly took 24,000 confidential documents from a contractor's network.

The 13-page paper explains that everyone will have to be on guard and warn each other, if internet attackers are to be successfully combated: "no single state or organization can maintain effective cyber defenses on its own". The Pentagon plans to work with a growing number of international partners to set up warning systems and joint training programs. Each country should take responsibility for the areas in which it is currently strongest and has special capabilities.

Lynn says that the US military alone has to fend off millions of hacker attacks each day on 15,000 networks and around 7 million computers. "The cyber threats we face are urgent, sometimes uncertain and potentially devastating as adversaries constantly search for vulnerabilities". According to Lynn, the amount of information stolen each year from hard drives used by American firms, universities, and authorities would more than fill up the Library of Congress in Washington, which contains 147 million items, 33 million of which are books. Each day, more than 60,000 new computer contaminants are reportedly identified as a threat.

The strategy paper has been anticipated for months. Its intention is to show how the Pentagon aims to add cyber defence to US defence in the air, on land, at sea, and in space.

Cyber Command, a special unit set up last year, will be implementing the strategy. To this end, soldiers are to be better trained, including specific defence exercises and war simulation. One goal is to quickly redirect individual or all Pentagon operations to secure networks during an attack.

In addition, new "hygiene standards" are to apply throughout the entire Department of Defense to prevent confidential data from accidentally being leaked. Another goal is to react more quickly to in-house data theft and sabotage. The new strategy has a much more defensive tone than expected. In May, the Pentagon classified severe hacker attacks from abroad as acts of war that might also require counterattacks with conventional weapons. The new strategy does not mention that option, nor does it discuss the possibility of conducting offensive cyber war against enemies.


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