Tags: NSA/Surveillance | cyber defense | cybersecurity | us cyber command

To Defend US, Cyber Command Needs Staff, Funding

To Defend US, Cyber Command Needs Staff, Funding
Current U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis attended a news conference on Thursday, Aug. 17, 2017, at the U.S. State Department in Washington, D.C. (Jacquelyn Martin/AP)

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Monday, 28 August 2017 05:20 PM Current | Bio | Archive

When the USS John S. McCain collided with an oil tanker in the waters near Singapore, my first reaction was concern for the 10 sailors who were missing. My second thought was that it could have been an act of cyber warfare.

Here’s something we’ve all got to consider in the post-Snowden world: Things that look like freak accidents, glitches of technology, could be acts of war. It is simply impossible for anyone outside of the Pentagon to know for sure.

Now, stay with me before you dismiss the possibility out of hand.

It shouldn’t be too hard to agree with the following statement: More goes on behind the scenes in the realm of cyber "War and Peace" than we will ever know.

Even the most paranoid Hollywood thrillers probably suffer from failures of the imagination when compared to the real thing, which is why it makes sense to pause and wonder about unexpected digital events.

Things Are Tense

We are in the midst of extremely difficult relations in the general vicinity of the recent naval crashes. North Korea is a known cyber warrior state. And while I’m not saying that North Korea caused the USS John S. McCain to crash, I’m not saying they didn’t, either.

There have been four collisions in the United States Navy’s 7th Fleet this year alone. Just two months ago, the USS Fitzgerald collided with a cargo ship off the coast of Japan. Seven sailors were killed in that incident.

The USS Lake Champlain, a guided missile cruiser, collided with a South Korean fishing boat the month before that, and another guided-missile cruiser, USS Antietam, ran aground in Tokyo Bay in January.

The 7th Fleet is in Yokosuka. It is home base to 40 to 70 ships. In addition to maintaining a strategic and global community presence, the fleet is tasked with keeping North Korea in check as well as China’s creeping presence in the South China Sea.

Price of Cyber Ineptitude in the South China Sea

Last week, the White House announced something that many in the cyber community have long felt is overdue. Well, at least they sort of did.

Since its inception in 2009, U.S. Cyber Command has been under the oversight of the NSA, which is tasked with data collection and analysis. While there have been arguments for the arrangement as it stands, many experts believe Cyber Command is a different beast, an entity that needs to be more agile than it can be under the NSA umbrella, a sprawling operation with a mandate that is other-focused.

In short, Cyber Command needed to be its own thing: the warring cousin of the NSA. 

Last week Cyber Command came of age when it was finally elevated to a "Unified Combatant Command," making it a military operation in its own right, similar to the commands that oversee our military engagements around the world.

It’s important to note that President Trump’s statement did not make a definitive decision on whether to separate the two agencies. He quite correctly said he would let Defense Secretary Jim Mattis figure that out. Mr. Secretary. Psst. Do it.

What’s to Figure Out?

Let’s say that the recent spate of mishaps in the 7th Fleet are the outward manifestation of an entrenched and covert war between the U.S. and hostile state-actors. Do we really have the leeway to get our Cyber Command wrong?

Let’s say there is no such war. We still don’t have the latitude to get it wrong. As it stands, Cyber Command’s 133 teams are about 1,200 people short of being fully operational. The magic number is 6,200. That’s a very consequential number of super geniuses.

A serious hurdle here is human resources. While the folks at the NSA are among the best and the brightest minds we have in cyber, it goes without saying — as we face down the threat of nuclear attack from North Korea, and myriad other threats — that our Cyber Command personnel must also be nothing less than the best and the brightest.

Both agencies cannot boast that status. Clearly, we cannot outsource the work to countries (it doesn’t matter which ones) where there’s a surfeit of cyber super geniuses.

Of course, the problem of staffing up Cyber Command and the NSA highlights a more basic dilemma we face as a nation. The up-and-coming generation isn’t riddled with cyber geniuses. That goes to the question of education, which will need to be discussed some other time.

Staffing up two organizations that are essential to national security represents a vitally important mission. When it comes to building that staff, we must never lose sight of the fact that robbing Peter to pay Paul will prove disastrous.

Adam K. Levin is a consumer advocate with more than 30 years of experience and is a nationally recognized expert on cybersecurity, privacy, identity theft, fraud, and personal finance. A former Director of the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs, Mr. Levin is Chairman and founder of CyberScout and co-founder of Credit.com. Adam Levin is the author of Amazon.com Best Seller "Swiped: How to Protect Yourself in a World Full of Scammers, Phishers, and Identity Thieves." He is the security and credit expert for ABCNews.com and writes a weekly column for The Huffington Post, Inc. Magazine, The Hill, and Newsmax. Mr. Levin is a go-to expert appearing on many national TV programs including "The Today Show," "Good Morning America," "MSNBC Live," "Fox and Friends," "NBC Nightly News," "ABC World News Tonight," "Cavuto Coast to Coast," "Bloomberg Surveillance," as well as radio nationally. Read more of his reports — Go Here Now.

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Staffing up two organizations that are essential to national security represents a vitally important mission. When it comes to building that staff, we must never lose sight of the fact that robbing Peter to pay Paul will prove disastrous.
cyber defense, cybersecurity, us cyber command
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2017-20-28
Monday, 28 August 2017 05:20 PM
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