The Washington Times Daily - - Nation -

Army Gen. Keith B. Alexan­der, com­man­der of U.S. Cy­ber Com­mand, told a Se­nate hear­ing this week that threats to global dig­i­tal net­works are grow­ing from an ar­ray of dan­gers, mainly from so­phis­ti­cated na­tion­state ac­tors.

Gen. Alexan­der, who is also di­rec­tor of the elec­tronic-spy­ing Na­tional Se­cu­rity Agency, said Cy­ber­com is mak­ing progress in de­vel­op­ing de­fen­sive and of­fen­sive cy­ber­war pro­grams.

De­spite the progress, “I have to be­gin by not­ing a wor­ri­some fact: Cy­berspace is be­com­ing more dan­ger­ous,” he said in pre­pared tes­ti­mony Tues­day be­fore the Se­nate Armed Ser­vices Com­mit­tee.

Gen. Alexan­der said threats that once were dis­cussed in the­o­ret­i­cal terms now are be­com­ing re­al­i­ties and are “ac­tu­ally be­ing de­ployed in the ar­se­nals of var­i­ous ac­tors in cy­berspace.”

Cy­ber­weapons first seen in 2010 are ca­pa­ble of dam­ag­ing or dis­rupt­ing dig­i­tally con­trolled sys­tems and net­work de­vices, and they likely are un­der the con­trol of for­eign gov­ern­ments, he said.

“Fur­ther­more, we be­lieve it is only a mat­ter of time be­fore some­one em­ploys ca­pa­bil­i­ties that could cause sig­nif­i­cant dis­rup­tion to civil­ian or gov­ern­ment net­works and to our crit­i­cal in­fra­struc­ture here in the United States,” he said.

State-spon­sored in­dus­trial es­pi­onage and theft of in­tel­lec­tual prop­erty “now oc­curs with stun­ning ra­pac­ity and brazen­ness, and some of that ac­tiv­ity links back to for­eign in­tel­li­gence ser­vices,” Gen. Alexan­der said, not­ing that pri­vate com­pa­nies and gov­ern­ments are be­ing “looted” by for­eign spies.

The four-star gen­eral avoided men­tion­ing the hacker forces of China and Rus­sia, con­sid­ered by U.S. of­fi­cials to be the most ac­tive cy­ber­spies and cy­ber­war­fare threats.

A new fo­cus of con­cern at Cy­ber Com­mand is the growth of cy­ber­at­tacks by hacker ac­tivist groups such as Anony­mous and Lulz Se­cu­rity that of­ten op­er­ate in uni­son to spur at­tacks on se­lected or­ga­ni­za­tions and peo­ple.

“We are also con­cerned that cy­ber­ac­tors with ex­treme and vi­o­lent agen­das, such as al Qaeda af­fil­i­ates or sup­port­ers, could draw upon the ex­pe­ri­ences and ideas of more so­phis­ti­cated ‘hac­tivists’ and po­ten­tially use this knowl­edge for more dis­rup­tive or de­struc­tive pur­poses, though it re­mains un­clear what the like­li­hood of such an event is,” he said.

The re­cent so­phis­ti­cated hack of busi­ness tech­nol­ogy firm RSA Corp. that com­pro­mised se­cu­rity to­kens used to gain se­cure re­mote com­puter ac­cess for de­fense con­trac­tors and the Pen­tagon turned out to have been a twopronged as­sault.

U.S. of­fi­cials sus­pect China was be­hind the at­tack.

“In­deed, the sys­tems of some non-dod users were breached not long af­ter the com­pro­mise by in­trud­ers ex­ploit­ing the stolen cer­tifi­cates,” Gen. Alexan­der said.

Dur­ing the hear­ing, it was re­vealed that Pen­tagon in­for­ma­tion sys­tems are probed up to 1,000 times an hour and more than 6 mil­lion times a day by 100 for­eign in­tel­li­gence ser­vices, along with criminals and ter­ror­ist groups.

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