US threatens 'military force' against hackers

Cyber espionage and attacks from well-funded nations or terror groups are the biggest threats to the military's computer networks, a top US officer said.

Air Force General Kevin Chilton, who heads US Strategic Command, said he worries that foes will learn to disable or distort battlefield communications.



Chilton told reporters that even as the Pentagon improves its network defences against hackers, he needs more people, training and resources to hone offensive cyber war capacity.



At the same time, however, he asserted that the US would consider using military force against an enemy who attacks and disrupts the nation's critical networks.



"Our job would be to present options. I don't think you take anything off the table when you provide options" to the defence secretary or president, in the wake of an attack, whether the weapon is a missile or a computer program, he said.



Chilton's comments shed the most light to date on the Pentagon's ongoing debate over how to beef up its abilities to wage and defend against cyber warfare.

And they came as the military is planning to set up a new cyber command at Fort Meade not far from Washington that would report to Strategic Command.



In a wide-ranging discussion of the military's cyber issues, Chilton said the Pentagon's unclassified networks are probed thousands of times a day, as hackers try to steal information on military programs or planning.



"I worry when I see that important information is taken from our networks," he said. To date, he said there have been no major attacks against the military's networks, only intrusions or efforts to steal data.



Asked directly whether probes have been traced to China, al-Qaeda or other groups, Chilton declined to answer.



His biggest fear, however, is that enemies hack into military battlefield systems, and when a US commander sends out an order that says forces should go left, it is changed to say forces should go right. While most systems are classified and walled off, he said there are often ways to cross into those networks.



The other worry is more internal. When a soldier or sailor sits down at a computer, Chilton said "it's like he's stepping to the guard gate at his base," and can open the digital gate and let adversaries in.



Pentagon plans for a new command are a response to concerns that the offensive and defensive cyber operations are currently separate, and not as coordinated as they should be.



Chilton said he needs 2,000-4,000 more workers over the next five years to provide the expertise needed for both offensive and defensive cyber operations. He said it is not clear yet how much additional money he needs.



He said there is no timeline for the creation of a new cyber command, noting that the idea has not gotten final approval from Defence Secretary Robert Gates.



The military, Chilton said, must expand its ability to quickly remedy software problems, change computer configurations and to know who is on the network and what they are doing.



In some war fighting areas the US is dominant, but he said he cannot say the same for the digital battlefield just yet.



While enemies need only a computer to join the fight, the military has improved its defences to the point where it will take larger, more educated, well-funded organisations or nations to pose a real threat.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Sport
Luis Suarez looks towards the crowd during the 2-1 victory over England
sport
Life and Style
Cheesecake frozen yoghurt by Constance and Mathilde Lorenzi
food + drinkThink outside the cool box for this summer’s frozen treats
News
John Barrowman kisses his male “bride” at a mock Gretna Green during the Commonwealth Games opening ceremony
peopleBarrowman's opening ceremony message to Commonwealth countries where he would be sent to prison for being gay
Sport
Sir Bradley Wiggins removes his silver medal after the podium ceremony for the men’s 4,000m team pursuit in Glasgow yesterday
Commonwealth games Disappointment for Sir Bradley in team pursuit final as England are forced to settle for silver
Sport
Alistair Brownlee (right) celebrates with his gold medal after winning the men’s triathlon alongside brother Jonny (left), who got silver
England's Jodie Stimpson won the women’s triathlon in the morning
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SQL Report Analyst (SSRS, CA, SQL 2012)

£30000 - £38500 Per Annum + 25 days holiday, pension, subsidised restaurant: C...

Application Support Analyst (SQL, Incident Management, SLAs)

£34000 - £37000 Per Annum + excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Lt...

Embedded Software / Firmware Engineer

£40000 - £45000 per annum + Pension, Holiday, Flexi-time: Progressive Recruitm...

Developer - WinForms, C#

£280 - £320 per day: Progressive Recruitment: C#, WinForms, Desktop Developmen...

Day In a Page

Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
10 best reed diffusers

Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little
Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

Screwing your way to the top?

Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears
US Army's shooting star: Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform

Meet the US Army's shooting star

Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform