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.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
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

Recruitment Genius: Online Media Sales Trainee

£15000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Now our rapidly expanding and A...

Recruitment Genius: Public House Manager / Management Couples

£15000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you passionate about great ...

Recruitment Genius: Production Planner

£20000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast growing reinforcing s...

Recruitment Genius: General Factory Operatives

£18000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast growing reinforcing s...

Day In a Page

Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

Isis hostage crisis

The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

Cabbage is king again

Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
11 best winter skin treats

Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

Paul Scholes column

The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

Frank Warren's Ringside

No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee