Who said this was a tough job market? Not the Defense Department’s Cyber Command. Elisabeth Bumiller in The New York Times says Cyber Command is increasing staffing from its current 900 people to over 4,000.
“The threat is real and we need to react to it,” said William J. Lynn III, a former deputy defense secretary who worked on the Pentagon’s cybersecurity strategy.
An unnamed defense official is quoted in the article as saying the Pentagon “is constantly looking to recruit, train and retain world class cyberpersonnel.” So, clearly it’s not going to be easy finding, training and holding onto such a large number of people with the skill set to do the jobs that are required.
“The Pentagon is planning three different forces under Cyber Command,” writes Bumiller, ‘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 force’” to secure the Pentagon’s computer systems.”
Last October, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta warned of a possible “cyber-Pearl Harbor,” where what he characterized as an “aggressor nation” or a group of extremists could create a national catastrophe such as dismantling the nation’s power grid, transportation system, financial network or government. Wow, a foreign power creating even more dysfunction in government than Congress. Now that is an apocalyptic thought.
Panetta was also reacting to what the Times article referred to as “increasing assertiveness and technological advances by the nation’s adversaries, which (other) officials identified as China, Russia, Iran and militant groups.” The Secretary, according to those defense officials, was particularly concerned about the attack last August on Saudi Aramaco, which infected more than 30,000 computers and was ascribed by American intelligence to Iran.
Security professionals, in and outside of government, say Iran and the United States have been in a continuing war of cyberattacks and counterattacks for some time. Some experts attributed the attacks to “cybercorps” which was created in 2011 by Iran’s military. However, no one has incontrovertible proof that the attacks were sanctioned by Iran’s government.
The Times article notes that “attacks emanating from Iran have inflicted only modest damage. Iran’s cyberwarfare capabilities are weaker than those of China and Russia, which intelligence officials believe are the sources of a significant number of attacks on American companies and government agencies.”
So while other Pentagon programs and the conventional armed forces are under review for budget cutting, The Defense Department’s Cyber Command is growing exponentially to meet the 21st century’s latest threat.