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Monday, January 28, 2013

Daily Report: Pentagon Expanding Online Defenses

Defense officials say that the Pentagon is moving toward a major expansion of its cybersecurity force to counter increasing attacks on the nation’s computer networks, as well as to expand offensive computer operations on foreign adversaries, Elisabeth Bumiller reports on Monday in The New York Times.

The expansion would increase the Defense Department’s Cyber Command by more than 4,000 people, up from 900, an American official said. Defense officials acknowledged that a formidable challenge in the growth of the command would be finding, training and holding on to such a large number of qualified people.

The Pentagon “is constantly looking to recruit, train and retain world class cyberpersonnel,” a defense official said Sunday.

“The threat is real, and we need to react to it,” said William J. Lynn III, a former deputy defense secretary who worked onthe Pentagon’s cybersecurity strategy.

As part of the expansion, officials said the Pentagon was planning three different forces under Cyber Command: “national mission forces” to protect computer systems that support the nation’s power grid and critical infrastructure, “combat mission forces” to plan and execute attacks on adversaries and “cyber protection forces” to secure the Pentagon’s computer systems.

The move, part of a push by Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta to bolster the Pentagon’s cyberoperations, was first reported on The Washington Post’s Web site.

In October, Mr. Panetta warned in dire terms that the United States was facing the possibility of a “cyber-Pearl Harbor” and was increasingly vulnerable to foreign computer hackers who could dismantle the nation’s power grid, transport! ation system, financial network and government. He said that “an aggressor nation” or extremist group could cause a national catastrophe, and that he was reacting to increasing assertiveness and technological advances by the nation’s adversaries, which officials identified as China, Russia, Iran and militant groups.