Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Pentagon Cyberdefenses Are Weak, Report Warns

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Pentagon Cyberdefenses Are Weak, Report Warns

Article excerpt

WASHINGTON -- A new report for the Pentagon concludes that the nation's military is unprepared for a full-scale cyber-conflict with a top-tier adversary and must ramp up its offensive prowess.

The unclassified version of the study by the Defense Science Board also urges the intelligence community to boost its data collection on leading nations' cyber-capabilities and maintain the threat of a nuclear strike as a deterrent to a major cyberattack.

The 138-page report by the panel of civilian and government experts bluntly states that, despite numerous Pentagon actions to parry sophisticated attacks by other countries, efforts are "fragmented," and the Defense Department "is not prepared to defend against this threat." The report lays out a scenario in which cyberattacks in conjunction with conventional warfare damaged the ability of U.S. forces to respond, creating confusion on the battlefield and weakening traditional defenses.

In one of the more critical comments, the report notes that Pentagon "red" teams established to test the military's cyberdefense abilities have "relative ease ... in disrupting, or completely beating, our forces in exercises using [software] exploits available on the Internet."

The 33-member task force recommends a strategy combining deterrence, refocused intelligence priorities and a stronger offense and defense.

"Defense can take you part of the way, but it needs to be balanced with cyber-offense and conventional capabilities," said task force co-chairman Lewis Von Thaer, who is president of General Dynamics Advanced Information Systems.

The Pentagon cannot be confident that its military computer systems are not compromised, the report says, because some use components made in countries with high-end cyber-capabilities. It says only a few nations, including China and Russia, have the skills to create vulnerabilities in protected systems by interfering with components.

To illustrate the danger, the report describes a recently declassified Cold War-era case in which the Soviets modified IBM Selectric typewriters used at the U.S. Embassy in Moscow so that every keystroke was transmitted to a nearby listening post. …

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