The Washington Times on March 13, 2013, reported that the U.S. Defense Department is building an “offensive” cyberforce to counter increasing threats by hackers, criminals and foreign agents to the nation’s computer networks, the commander of U.S. Cyber Command told a Senate panel. Excerpts below:

“I would like to be clear that this team, this ‘defend the nation team’ is not a defensive team,” Army Gen. Keith B. Alexander said. “This is an offensive team that the Defense Department would use to defend the nation if it were attacked in cyberspace.”

Gen. Alexander said his command is creating 13 teams for that offensive capability, which would work outside of the country.

“They’re the teams that would go on the offense to defend our nation,” he told the Senate Armed Services Committee.

“So if we were attacked, you’d need somebody to counter that attack.”

“Think of it: If a missile comes at us, you knock down that missile. … That’s what I mean by offensive,” he said.

The general said 27 other teams are being created to support combatant commands in their planning for offensive cybercapabilities and another set of teams would defend military networks in cyberspace.

A third of the new teams will be ready for operations by September, another third by September 2014 and the final third by September 2015, Gen. Alexander said.

The announcement of the new cyberforce came less than a month after private U.S. cybersecurity firm Mandiant Inc. reported hundreds of attacks against U.S. and foreign companies emanating from a building in Shanghai, China, that also houses the People’s Liberation Army cyberunit.

Gen. Alexander said that the U.S. intelligence community in the past seven years has increased its ability to determine which Chinese agencies and companies have accessed U.S. intellectual property.

Air Force Gen. C. Robert Kehler, commander of U.S. Strategic Command, testified Tuesday beside Gen. Alexander.

“The ongoing theft of the nation’s critical commercial, civil and unclassified military data by foreign intelligence and security services continues to erode U.S. economic and national security and reduce the competitive edge of U.S. businesses,” Gen. Kehler said.

Noting that the number of cyberattacks has increased in recent months, Gen. Alexander urged Congress to pass legislation that would allow the government and the private sector to share information about cyberthreats and attacks in order to better protect the nation’s computer networks.

The Obama administration last month issued an executive order to improve communication between the government and private companies, and establish voluntary security standards, but Gen. Alexander said more is needed.



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