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

How to Safeguard Your Mobile Privacy

As the digital world becomes more mobile, so too do concerns about eroding privacy and increased hacking More

'Desert Dancer' Chronicles Iranian Underground Dance Troupe

Film by Richard Raymond is based on true story of Afshin Ghaffarian and his friends More

Researcher: Obesity Poses Complex Problem

Professor at Symposium on Obesity, Diabetes and Metabolic Syndrome says problem involves more than calorie intake, warns of worldwide health impact 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.
Scientists Say Plankton More Important Than Previously Thoughti
X
George Putic
May 26, 2015 9:26 PM
Tiny ocean creatures called plankton are mostly thought of as food for whales and other large marine animals, but a four-year global study discovered, among other things, that plankton are a major source of oxygen on our planet. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Scientists Say Plankton More Important Than Previously Thought

Tiny ocean creatures called plankton are mostly thought of as food for whales and other large marine animals, but a four-year global study discovered, among other things, that plankton are a major source of oxygen on our planet. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Kenyans Lament Losing Sons to al-Shabab

There is agony, fear and lost hope in the Kenyan town of Isiolo, a key target of a new al-Shabab recruitment drive. VOA's Mohammed Yusuf visits Isiolo to speak with families and at least one man who says he was a recruiter.
Video

Video US-led Coalition Gives Some Weapons to Iraqi Troops

In a video released Tuesday from the Iraqi Ministry of Defense, Iraqi forces and U.S.-led coalition troops survey a cache of weapons supplied to help Iraq liberate Mosul from Islamic State group. According to a statement provided with the video, the ministry and the U.S.-led coaltion troops have started ''supplying the 16th army division with medium and light weapons in preparation to liberate Mosul and nearby areas from Da'esh (Arabic acronym for Islamic State group).''
Video

Video Amnesty International: 'Overwhelming Evidence' of War Crimes in Ukraine

Human rights group Amnesty International says there is overwhelming evidence of ongoing war crimes in Ukraine, despite a tentative cease-fire with pro-Russian rebels. Researchers interviewed more than 30 prisoners from both sides of the conflict and all but one said they were tortured. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Washington Parade Honors Those Killed Serving in US Military

Every year, on the last Monday in the month of May, millions of Americans honor the memories of those killed while serving in the armed forces. Memorial Day is a tradition that dates back to the 19th Century. While many people celebrate the federal holiday with a barbecue and a day off from work, for those who’ve served in the military, it’s a special day to remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice. Arash Arabasadi reports for VOA from Washington.
Video

Video Kenya’s Capital Sees Rise in Shisha Parlors

In Kenya, the smoking of shisha, a type of flavored tobacco, is the latest craze. Patrons are flocking to shisha parlors to smoke and socialize. But the practice can be addictive and harmful, though many dabblers may not realize the dangers, according to a new review. Lenny Ruvaga has more on the story for VOA from Nairobi, Kenya.
Video

Video Rolling Thunder Run Reveals Changed Attitudes Towards Vietnam War

For many US war veterans, the Memorial Day holiday is an opportunity to look back at a divisive conflict in the nation’s history and to remember those who did not make it home.
Video

Video Female American Soldiers: Healing Through Filmmaking

According to the United States Defense Department, there are more than 200-thousand women serving in the U.S. Armed Forces.  Like their male counterparts, females have experiences that can be very traumatic.  VOA's Bernard Shusman tells us about a program that is helping some American women in the military heal through filmmaking.
Video

Video Iowa Family's Sacrifice Shaped US Military Service for Generations

Few places in America have experienced war like Waterloo. This small town in the Midwest state of Iowa became famous during World War II not for what it accomplished, but what it lost. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the legacy of one family’s sacrifice is still a reminder today of the real cost of war for all families on the homefront.
Video

Video On Film: How Dance Defies Iran's Political Oppression

'Desert Dancer' by filmmaker Richard Raymond is based on the true story of a group of young Iranians, who form an underground dance troupe in the Islamic Republic of Iran. This is the latest in a genre of films that focus on dance as a form of freedom of expression against political oppression and social injustice. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Turkey's Ruling Party Trying to Lure Voters in Opposition Stronghold

Turkey’s AK (Justice and Development) Party is seeking a fourth successive general election victory, with the goal of securing two-thirds of the seats in Parliament to rewrite the constitution and change the country's parliamentary system into a presidential one. To achieve that, the party will need to win seats in opposition strongholds like the western city of Izmir. Dorian Jones reports.
Video

Video Millions Flock to Ethiopia Polls

Millions of Ethiopians cast their votes Sunday in the first national election since the 2012 death of longtime leader Meles Zenawi. Mr. Meles' party, the Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front, is almost certain of victory again. VOA's Anita Powell reports from Addis Ababa.

VOA Blogs