Cyber Attack Teams Forming

Thursday, March 14, 2013 @ 06:03 PM gHale


In a move to protect the U.S. against major computer attacks from abroad, the Pentagon’s Cyber Command will create 13 offensive teams by the fall of 2015, National Security Agency (NSA) Director Gen. Keith Alexander said Tuesday.

The new teams are just one part of an effort to protect the country from destructive attacks over the Internet that could harm Wall Street or knock out electric power, for instance, the general told Congress.

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Alexander warned budget cuts will undermine the effort to build up these forces even as foreign threats to the nation’s critical computer systems intensify. And he urged Congress to pass legislation to enable the private sector to share computer threat data with the government without fear of lawsuites.

As he moves into his eighth year as director of the NSA and his third year as head of the fledgling Cyber Command, Alexander told the Senate Armed Services Committee the strategic-threat picture is getting more fierce.

“We’ve seen the attacks on Wall Street over the last six months grow significantly,” he said, noting there were more than 160 disruptive attacks on banks in that period.

Describing the Shamoon attack on Saudi Arabia’s national oil company, he said: “Last summer, in August, we saw a destructive attack on Saudi Aramco, where the data on over 30,000 systems were destroyed. And if you look at industry, especially the anti-virus community and others, they believe it’s going to grow more in 2013. And there’s a lot that we need to do to prepare for this.”

The U.S. intelligence community indicated the assaults on the banks and Saudi Aramco were the work of Iran in retaliation for U.S. financial sanctions imposed to deter Iran from pursuing a nuclear weapons program.

Alexander said the 13 teams would defend against destructive attacks. “ I would like to be clear that this team … is an offensive team,” he said.

Twenty-seven other teams would support commands such as the Pacific Command and the Central Command as they plan offensive cyber capabilities. Separate teams would focus on protecting the Defense Department’s computer networks. He said the first third of the forces, which officials have said will total several thousand civilians and uniformed personnel, will be in place by September and the second third a year later.

Some teams are already in place, Alexander said, to focus on “the most serious threats,” which he did not identify.



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