U.S. Cyber Command chief unveils plan to counter advanced cyberthreats

U.S. Cyber Command’s Adm. Michael Rogers

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The Defense Department’s sword and shield in the cyber domain has issued a new report that lays out its priorities for keeping the country secure.

In “Beyond the Build: Delivering Outcomes Through Cyberspace,” released Tuesday, the U.S. Cyber Command’s Adm. Michael Rogers summarizes his plan to sew cybersecurity into the fiber of America’s national security program: He emphasizes the need to promote enhanced control of passwords, better leadership awareness of cyberthreats and better defensive technology. Rogers also highlights the importance of safeguarding intellectual property and personally identifiable information.

“Our challenge is to protect the things we value — freedom, liberty, prosperity, intellectual property and personal information,” Rogers states in the report.

Created in June 2009 as an offshoot of the Defense Department’s U.S. Strategic Command, U.S. Cyber Command directs efforts to protect virtual assets and coordinates offensive actions to deny adversaries free reign of the Internet. The new plan follows up on the DOD-wide cyber strategy that Defense Secretary Ash Carter announced in April.

Accordingly, the report emphasizes that the Cyber Command must seek out “new ways of defending, fighting and partnering against adversaries in the contested cyber domain,” while recognizing it must avoid “hindering the free flow of information that fosters growth and intellectual dynamism.”

But fluctuating cyber policy hampers the Cyber Command’s capacity to employ certain tactics, the report argues. In particular, it makes the case for a “backdoor” into systems with strong encryption — something FBI Director James Comey pushed for before the Senate this summer.

Rogers also cites the complex, ubiquitous nature of cyberspace as one of the greatest barriers to properly arming U.S. forces against virtual threats.

“As cyberspace has grown and become more pervasive, military art has changed,” the report says. “No one today can exert or maintain national power without acute sensitivity to the digital networks that underpin the world’s communications, prosperity, and security.”

The report emphasizes that ensuring military leaders — even those outside of the direct cybersphere — are trained in and understand the scope of cyber warfare is a critical step in advancing cyber capabilities. It also recommends expanding use of cyber assets to military units that do not currently employ them.

“Operations in and from cyberspace are crucial … Joint task force commanders, regardless of mission, need to understand their networks and how those networks affect the execution of their missions,” the report states. “Joint Force 2020 envisions operations in cyberspace becoming a precursor to and an integral part of conflict in the land, maritime, air, and space domains.”

The report also cautions that proposed DOD budget cuts present an obstacle to cyber advancements, arguing that the cyber mission “merits new investment.”

“The Department of Defense and the nation are counting on us to be there,” it says. “We must be ready.”

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Cybersecurity, Department of Defense (DOD), Departments, Tech
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