CYBERATTACK DANGER GROWS
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.