[DEHAI] (ISN ) US Cybersoldiers Suit Up, The US is tapping into its hacker talent for an unconventional war.

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From: wolda002@umn.edu
Date: Tue Jun 23 2009 - 02:58:22 EDT

22 Jun 2009
US Cybersoldiers Suit Up
fingers on keyboard, courtesy wiccked/flickr

The US is tapping into its hacker talent for an unconventional war.

As cyberthreats become more of a concern for national security, the US
military is turning to the private sector to provide ‘cybersoldiers’ as
the latest strategy offensive writes Jody Ray Bennett for ISN Security

By Jody Ray Bennett

Presiding from the East Room of the White House on 29 May, US President
Barack Obama announced plans to secure the cyberinfrastructure of the US as
the administration’s newest national security priority.

Obama reminded the press the broad reason for the morning meeting: “We
meet today at a transformational moment – a moment in history when our
interconnected world presents us, at once, with great promise but also
great peril,” adding that none of the nations’ top priorities can be
given deserved attention without first securing the American “digital
infrastructure,” specifically what the administration referred to as
“the backbone that underpins a prosperous economy and a strong military
and an open and efficient government.”

While the global ubiquity of the digital network catalyzed yearly
complaints and pleas from both public and private officials to reform and
reorganize the way the US government and military handled its digital
infrastructure, cries always seemed to fall on deaf ears. However,
Obama’s latest recognition of potential national security threats in
cyberspace may signal a transformation that is more than overdue.

After gliding over previous governmental cybersecurity failures and
admitting the US government remained ill-prepared to effectively
communicate between agencies or fend off foreign cyberattacks, Obama laid
the groundwork for a new office of “Cybersecurity Coordinator” that
would be depended upon for “all matters relating to cybersecurity,” as
well as receiving the “full support and regular access” to the

Obama sternly announced to the world that, “America's economic prosperity
in the 21st century will depend on cybersecurity” and would thus
“deter, prevent, detect, and defend against [cyber] attacks and recover
quickly from any disruptions or damage.”

Ready, aim, click

Omitted from Obama’s speech was any mention of the ongoing employment of
‘hacker soldiers’ by the US military that are engaged in a
cyberoffensive against other foreign state and non-state targets. Further
missing from mainstream coverage is that this offensive is overwhelmingly
privatized and is controlled by the largest of private defense contractors
that have typically been in the business of selling to the US government
jetfighters and complex missile and satellite systems.

The US Department of Defense has outsourced yet another military operation
to the private sector, resulting in a massive scramble between companies
like Northrop Grumman, General Dynamics, Lockheed Martin and Raytheon to
snatch up the brightest, tech-savvy computer nerds to “address the new
demand for an unconventional cyberwar” and to “blend [those] new
capabilities into the nation's war planning,” reports Press TV. Indeed,
early this month, homeland security Chief Janet Napolitano swore in 16
homeland security advisors, one of whom was Jeff Moss, a seemingly
unorthodox choice considering Moss is a world-renowned hacker and founder
of DEFCON, the world’s largest annual hacking convention.

According to a chief official from Northrop Grumman, the US government will
be increasing its spending in the coming years to combat cyberthreats.
Estimates place US government spending at least $10 billion per year on
“cyber security projects,” according to Redorbit.com, an appealing
figure up for grabs by companies now demanding the “country’s most
brilliant young talent, who just a few years ago would have been far
likelier to take a position in the Silicon Valley.”

As a provisional unit, the Air Force operates an Air Force Cyber Command
that initially wanted to create a de facto network from which it could
launch distributed denial of service attacks (DDoS) against foreign
networks. However, the US government has never openly stated whether or not
it has done so, instead downplaying its role as purely defensive or at the
most “encouraging a sneaky, ‘low and slow’ approach […] the
preferred attack [consisting] of lying quiet, and then ‘stealthily
exfiltrat[ing] information’ from adversaries’ networks,” reports

But heightened concerns within the Obama administration has changed the
tone and discourse, demonstrating its desire to create a cyberoffensive.
The US Air Force is already halfway into its two year, $11 million
“Dominant Cyber Offensive Engagement and Supporting” project, which is
currently seeking bids from companies that can implement its mandate
referred to as D5: “the capability to provide a variety of techniques and
technologies to be able to affect computer information systems through
Deceive, Deny, Disrupt, Degrade, [and] Destroy effects.”

Weaving a web of talent

While the notion of a US cyberoffensive might raise some concern, its
formulation to launch an organized cyberattack has been surprisingly slow
to get off the ground, especially since the Department of Defense has long
recognized the ongoing cyberwars between Israel and Palestine and India and
Pakistan, among others, according to the Computer Crime Research Center.
This year, the US government’s budget for research and development is set
at $143 billion, but cybersecurity research will receive only $300 million.

Nevertheless, the upcoming cyberoffensive will be carried out much in
participation with private industry that, according to The New York Times,
are currently working together to “to build a National Cyber Range, a
model of the Internet for testing advanced techniques [of cyberwarfare].”
In fact, one private contractor, Raytheon, is already extensively funding
specific math and science education programs intended to groom future
cybersoldiers, according to the report. Not surprising, the company has
strategic partnerships with 10 American universities, some of which are
military academies. Raytheon’s CEO explained the company’s rationale:
“Both China and Russia invest heavily in math and science education, two
of the United States' biggest competitors, and not surprisingly, the source
of many cyberattacks directed at U.S. networks.”

Soon, companies like Lockheed and Martin will be shuttling off their newest
cybersoldiers to the Air Force Cyber Command in San Antonio, Texas, the
front line of the cyberwar that the Department of Defense is slowly
realizing could become its newest battle zone. Not to be outdone, the US
Navy also established a Naval Network Warfare Command, or NETWARCOM, in
order to maintain what it refers to as “information superiority,” or
“the capability to collect, process, and disseminate an uninterrupted
flow of information while exploiting or denying an adversary’s ability to
do the same.”

America’s cyberarmy will be an amalgamation of private contractors and
military personnel sitting in high tech computer labs around the US. At any
given time, these new “cyberninjas” might be fending off intrusion
attempts from Chinese state owned computers or launching an offensive
against servers riddled with so-called terrorist activity. Nevertheless,
the “cyber-” may soon become a ubiquitous prefix in the evolving
narrative of unconventional warfare. It should soon spark a litany of
coffeehouse discussions and journal publications pondering whether or not
combat via digital networks can be considered a form of warfare in general,
and furthermore whether these attacks demonstrate a changing nature of

Jody Ray Bennett is a freelance writer and academic researcher. His areas
of analysis include the private military and security industry, the
materialization of non-state forces and the transformation of modern

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