Cybercom Commander: Other Nations’ Cyberspace Ops Intensified

U.S. Cyber Command has witnessed intensified cyberspace operations by state and nonstate actors and wide-ranging malicious cyber activities targeting the government and the private sector in the past year, Cybercom commander Navy Adm. Michael S. Rogers told a House panel March 16.

Rogers, who is also the National Security Agency director and Central Security Service chief, testified on Cybercom’s segment of the fiscal year 2017 Defense Department budget request before the House Armed Services Committee’s emerging threats and capabilities subcommittee. He highlighted Cybercom’s challenges and initiatives in the past year.

“At this time, nations still present the greatest or gravest threats to our nation’s cybersecurity, because they alone can commit the significant resources to sustain sophisticated campaigns to penetrate in our best-guarded networks,” the admiral said.

Watching for Nonstate ‘Signs’

US Cyber Command Headquarters.
US Cyber Command Headquarters.

Cybercom continues to look for signs that nations such as Russia, China, Iran, and North Korea and nonstate actors such as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant are developing “significant improvements” in their cyber capabilities, Rogers said.

“They steal intellectual property, citizens’ personal information, and they have intruded into networks ranging from the Joint Staff’s unclassified network to networks controlling our nation’s critical infrastructure,” the admiral said.

U.S. adversaries use cyberspace to shape potential operations to try to limit U.S. options in a crisis, he said, adding that Cybercom is progressing in building its cyber mission force of 133 teams.

Even those teams are not yet operational, they are conducting cyber operations to support U.S. Central Command in degrading, dismantling and ultimately defeating ISIL, Rogers noted.

The Joint Force Headquarters DoD Information Networks stood up last year has already made “great strides” in its goal to lead day-to-day security and defense of the department’s data and networks, he said.

More Confidence in DoD Systems

And while DoD expands the joint information environment, Rogers said, there is much more confidence in DoD’s overall systems’ security and resilience.

“Our operations to defend DoD networks and the nation’s critical infrastructure proceed in conjunction with a host of federal, industry and international partners,” he pointed out. Cyber mission forces continue to operate safely and in a way that respects Americans’ civil liberties and privacies, Rogers said.

Cyber Exercises Are Unmatched

The amount of hacking in the public and private sectors is frightening to many security professionals.
The amount of hacking in the public and private sectors is frightening to many security professionals.

Cybercom’s annual exercises, Cyber Flag and Cyber Guard, offer “unmatched realism as we train with federal, state, industry and international partners,” Rogers told the panel. “And while our training is improving, we need a persistent training environment which the department is continuing to develop to gain necessary operational skills and to sustain readiness across the force.”

Cybercom is contributing to the new DoD cyber strategy, the commander said, adding that the command’s many responsibilities have allowed it to benefit from the authorities it was granted under the fiscal year 2016 National Defense Authorization Act, he said.

“[It] represents a significant augmentation of our ability to provide capabilities to our cyber mission teams, as well as our ability to attract and retain a skilled cyber workforce,” Rogers said.

And despite the challenging cyber environment in which the United States operates, Cybercom continues to make significant progress while it conducts cyber operations against determined adversaries, he said.

“The command has a clear path ahead and is actively pursuing new initiatives and authorities to best position the command to address the challenges and opportunities that we will undoubtedly confront,” Rogers said.

(Follow Terri Moon Cronk on Twitter: @MoonCronkDoD)


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