It Begins: Military’s Cyberwar Command Is Fully Operational
Fifteen thousand military computer networks became protected on November 3, 2010. Those ensconced within the informational phalanx called the event Cyber Command Day. They lived only to face a new challenge — the war against the Machines.
In truth, yesterday wasn’t quite so dramatic. The Department of Defense announced that the military’s new command for protecting its networks against cyberassault had achieved “full operational capability,” meaning the new U.S. Cyber Command, which opened for business in May, is 100 percent ready for duty, just a month behind schedule. Not that “full operational capability” fills in many of the blanks about when it’s acceptable for Cyber Command to attack a foreign network or how deeply it’ll be involved in the civilian internet.
Since Defense Secretary Robert Gates ordered its creation in 2009, there’s been a lot of confusion about just what Cyber Command will do. Its first leader, Army General Keith Alexander — who also commands the network-infiltration and surveillance experts at the National Security Agency — has portrayed it as a reactive organization, helping protect warfighting commands’ networks against cyberattacks and teaching the military good cyber-hygiene. And he’s repeatedly said the command will only get involved in the dot-gov and dot-com side of the internet during emergencies, when civilian government agencies come calling.
Only the boundaries of those emergencies remain undefined. And in practice, Cyber Command will routinely work with the Department of Homeland Security’s protectors of the civilian side of the internet. Last month, the Departments of Defense and Homeland Security inked an agreement to send Cyber Command officers to DHS to receive “requests for cybersecurity support” for “operational planning and mission coordination.”
The new “full operational capability” of the command doesn’t clarify any of that. Largely, it’s a bureaucratic shift: a new Joint Operations Center is now in existence, absorbing officers from two predecessor components of the command. An official statement promised vaguely that the command will “continue to grow the capacity and capability essential to operate and defend our networks effectively.”
Congress may choose to clarify what that means. A possible new leader of the House intelligence committee, Republican Mac Thornberry of Texas, has been a cybersecurity buff for years. In the Senate, Joe Lieberman and Susan Collins introduced a bill this spring that would give the president broad powers to declare a cyber-crisis and take charge of private firms’ networks. For now, the most conspicuous aspect of Cyber Command’s full functionality may be that it hasn’t yet become self-aware and waged a war of termination against humanity.
Photo: U.S. Air Force
Saturday, February 19, 2011
It Begins: Military’s Cyberwar Command Is Fully Operational | Danger Room | Wired.com