News / Science & Technology

US Cyber Command to Take Offensive

National Security Agency Director Gen. Keith Alexander speaks about cybersecurity and the new threats posed to the U.S. economy and military at the American Enterprise Institute July 9, 2012 in Washington, DC.  Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images/AFP
National Security Agency Director Gen. Keith Alexander speaks about cybersecurity and the new threats posed to the U.S. economy and military at the American Enterprise Institute July 9, 2012 in Washington, DC. Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images/AFP
The U.S. Department of Defense has made a rare acknowledgement that it is developing offensive cyber capabilities.

In testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee this past week, Gen. Keith Alexander, director of the National Security Agency, said 13 cyber warfare “teams” would be ready by 2015.

According to a prepared statement, the teams would be “analogous to battalions in the Army and Marine Corps—or squadrons in the Navy and Air Force.” Furthermore, “they will soon be capable of operating on their own, with a range of operational and intelligence skill sets, as well as a mix of military and civilian personnel.”

"Let me be clear, this defend-the-nation team is not a defensive team; this is an offensive team that the Department of Defense would use to defend the nation if it were attacked in cyberspace," he said during the testimony.

Citing “destructive” cyber attacks on the Saudi Aramco oil company last summer, during which 30,000 company computers were damaged, Alexander said experts believe the threat of attack will grow, and “there’s a lot that we need to do to prepare for this.”

There have already been reports of alleged U.S. offensive capability in the cyber domain. It is widely believed the U.S. and Israel were behind the so-called Stuxnet worm that damaged key components of Iran’s nuclear facilities in 2010.

The U.S. also was accused of hacking into the Elysée Palace computers in May of last year just before François Hollande succeeded Nicolas Sarkozy as president of France. The U.S. denied the charges.

In 2011, the White House issued document titled the “International Strategy for Cyberspace,” which said, “when warranted, the United States will respond to hostile acts in cyberspace as we would to any other threat to our country.”

Matthew Aid, an intelligence historian, had some questions about the revelation about offensive capabilities.

“I did not understand why so many teams need to be created to give [U.S. Cyber Command - CYBERCOM] an attack capability, and why this capability did not exist before now,” he wrote in an e-mail. “Who developed and employed Stuxnet then, if CYBERCOM is still building this capability?

“What the General also did not say is that this would be, according to the lawyers, an act of war requiring presidential approval and congressional notification,” Aid said. “What form of cyber attack on one or more critical U.S. systems from abroad would cross this imaginary retaliatory threshold? This is all Brave New World territory. Nothing like this has ever happened, so there are no precedents or standard operating procedures in place to guide us.”

Christopher Burgess, principal analyst at Prevendra LLC, and co-author of Secrets Stolen, Fortunes Lost, Preventing Economic Espionage and Intellectual Property Theft in the 21st Century, also had questions.

"What is key, will be how they engage, be it covert or overt, and how the U.S. will signal, diplomatically, where the red lines are for countries who also have an offensive cyber capability,” he wrote in an e-mail. “Then we see if the U.S. has a backbone of steel or the equivalent of a Gummi-worm?"

You May Like

Video Is West Doing Enough to Tackle Islamic State?

There is growing uncertainty over whether West’s response to ISIS is adequate More

China Crackdown on Dual Citizens Causes Concern

New policy encourages reporting people who obtain citizenship in another country, but retain Chinese citizenship; move spurs sharp debate More

Video Coalition to Fight Islamic State Could Reward Assad

Losing ground to Islamic State fighters, Syria's government says it is ready to cooperate with international community More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Is West Doing Enough to Tackle Islamic State?i
X
Henry Ridgwell
August 29, 2014 12:26 AM
U.S. President Barack Obama has ruled out sending ground troops to Iraq to fight militants of the so-called Islamic State, or ISIS, despite officials in Washington describing the extremist group as the biggest threat the United States has faced in years. Henry Ridgwell reports from London on the growing uncertainty over whether the West’s response to ISIS will be enough to defeat the terrorist threat.
Video

Video Is West Doing Enough to Tackle Islamic State?

U.S. President Barack Obama has ruled out sending ground troops to Iraq to fight militants of the so-called Islamic State, or ISIS, despite officials in Washington describing the extremist group as the biggest threat the United States has faced in years. Henry Ridgwell reports from London on the growing uncertainty over whether the West’s response to ISIS will be enough to defeat the terrorist threat.
Video

Video Pachyderms Play Polo to Raise Money for Elephants

Polo, the ancient team competition typically played on horseback, is known as the “sport of kings.” However, the royal version for one annual event in Thailand swaps the horse for the kingdom’s national symbol - the elephant. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Samut Prakan reports that the King’s Cup Elephant Polo tournament is all for a good cause.
Video

Video Coalition to Fight Islamic State Could Reward Assad

The United States along with European and Mideast allies are considering a broader assault against Islamic State fighters who have spread from Syria into Iraq and risk further destabilizing an already troubled region. But as VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports, confronting those militants could end up helping the embattled Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Video

Video Made in America Socks Get Toehold in Online Fashion Market

Three young entrepreneurs are hoping to revolutionize the high-end sock industry by introducing all-American creations of their own. And they’re doing most of it the old-fashioned way. VOA’s Julie Taboh recently caught up with them to learn what goes into making their one-of-a-kind socks.
Video

Video Americans, Ex-Pats Send Relief Supplies to West Africa

Health organizations from around the world are sending supplies and specialists to the West African countries that are dealing with the worst Ebola outbreak in history. On a smaller scale, ordinary Americans and African expatriates living in the United States are doing the same. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.
Video

Video America's Most Popular Artworks Displayed in Public Places

Public places in cities across America were turned into open-air art galleries in August. Pictures of the nation’s most popular artworks were displayed on billboards, bus shelters, subway platforms and more. The idea behind “Art Everywhere,” a collaborative campaign by five major museums is to allow more people to enjoy art and learn about the country’s culture and history. Faiza Elmasry has more.
Video

Video Chinese Doctors Use 3-D Spinal Implant

A Chinese boy suffering from a debilitating bone disease has become the first patient with a part of his spine created in a three-dimensional printer. Doctors say he will soon regain normal mobility. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Uneasy Calm Settles Over Israel, Gaza Strip

Israel and the Gaza Strip have been calm since a cease-fire set in Tuesday evening, ending seven weeks of hostilities. Hamas, which controls Gaza, declared victory. Israelis were more wart. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Jerusalem.
Video

Video India’s Leprosy Battle Stymied by Continuing Stigma

Medical advancements in the treatment of leprosy have greatly diminished its impact around the world, largely eliminating the disease from most countries. India made great strides in combating leprosy, but still accounts for a majority of the world’s new cases each year, and the number of newly infected Indians is rising - more than 130,000 recorded last year. Doctors there say the problem has more to do with society than science. Shaikh Azizur Rahman reports from Kolkata.
Video

Video Scientists Unlock Mystery of Bird Flocks

How can flocks of birds, schools of fish or herds of antelope suddenly change direction -- all the individuals adjusting their movement in concert, at seemingly the same time? British researchers now have some insights into this behavior, which has puzzled scientists for a long time. VOA's George Putic has more.

AppleAndroid