Pentagon Bolsters Cybersecurity Force To Head Off Foreign Threats

Personnel work at the Air Force Space Command Network Operations & Security Center at Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado Springs

In the wake of the recent Anonymous hack of the US Sentencing Commission’s website in support of Aaron Swartz, Pentagon chiefs have announced timely plans to beef up cybersecurity, assigning thousands of new personnel to the vital task of defending US computer networks.

The move comes just days after the latest embarrassment to US cyber defenses, when a bunch of Anonymous-linked script kiddies successfully infiltrated the Sentencing Commission’s website, stealing files and humiliating authorities by transforming it into a game of asteroids.

#Operation Last Resort made many of us snigger – but it also highlights a very serious problem with government cyber defenses. If all it takes is a bunch of amateurs to cripple the government’s websites, what kind of threat do professional, state-backed hackers pose to US security?

Clearly, the Pentagon has decided that the threat is a very serious one – serious enough that it has decided to bolster its cybersecurity manpower from 900 personnel to 4,900 over the next few years, according to the Washington Post.

The move was apparently made at the request of one Gen. Keith B. Alexander, Head of Cyber Command at the US Defense Department. The additional staff will be assigned to positions in a reorganized Pentagon cybersecurity team that will attempt to head off attacks at home, but also carry out offensive measures against foreign enemies, according to an unnamed defense official quoted by Reuters.

Officials have still to finalize plans regarding the overall structure of the new cybersecurity team at the Pentagon, but according to the Washington Post the expansion would cover both civilian and military staff within this unit. This will elevate the new force to a similar status as other defense departments.

Reuters adds that Pentagon officials are working closely with their counterparts at US Cyber Command, in order to create the optimal force structure that can successfully defend US interests in cyberspace.

These plans are timely not only in light of recent Anonymous activity. A more worrying threat was recently detected by the security firm Kaspersky, which identified a potent new malware dubbed “Red October” which had apparently infiltrated databases in embassies and nuclear installations in Europe and the US, stealing data and delivering it to unknown attackers.