US reviewing ways to fight cyber attacks: general

September 24, 2010
"Cyber war!" flashes on the screen at an Internet security conference. The White House is looking at boosting the authority of the US military and other agencies to protect the country's infrastructure from possible cyber attack, a top general said Thursday.

The White House is looking at boosting the authority of the US military and other agencies to protect the country's infrastructure from possible cyber attack, a top general said Thursday.

The newly formed US Cyber Command is assigned the job of safeguarding military networks and not commercial or banking computer networks, said General Keith Alexander, who leads the command.

"It is not my mission to defend, today, the entire nation," Alexander told the House Armed Services Committee. "Our mission in Cyber Command is to defend the Defense Department networks."

But he added: "I think this is what the White House, congressman, is actually looking at."

In examining how to fend off potentially disastrous attacks on digital infrastructure, the White House is weighing strategy, legal authorities and the proper role for the military, the , the FBI and other agencies, he said.

The is reviewing "what are the authorities, what do we have legally, and then given that, what do we have to come back to Congress and reshape or mold for authorities to operate in cyberspace."

Alexander described a scenario in which the US or other vital networks could be shut down by an "unknown capability" in cyberspace.

His comments will likely fuel a long-running debate about how the government balances civil liberties with the need to protect against possible digital sabotage.

The four-star general also leads the secretive National Security Agency that runs extensive eavesdropping and other electronic spying. Some critics have argued there should be a clearer distinction between government agencies charged with protecting digital networks and those carrying out espionage.

On Wednesday, Alexander told reporters he supported the idea of sealing off critical networks, including the electricity grid, in a "secure" zone separate from the rest of the Internet.

Such an approach "makes a lot of sense," he said.

Deputy Defense Secretary William Lynn earlier this year called for a "government-sponsored security regime" that could serve "operators of critical infrastructure."

Lynn warned that "individual users who do not want to enroll could stay in the wild wild west of the unprotected Internet."

The new Cyber Command, which was created in May, is due to become operational by October 1, with a budget of 120 million dollars.

Explore further: Obama to release cyber security report on Friday

Related Stories

Cyber Command chief warns of 'remote sabotage'

June 3, 2010

The top US cyberwarrior said Thursday that Pentagon networks are probed over six million times a day and expressed concern about a rise in "remote sabotage" attacks on computer systems.

US program to detect cyberattacks on companies, agencies

July 8, 2010

The United States is launching a program to detect cyberattacks on private US companies and government agencies running critical infrastructure such as the electricity grid and nuclear power plants, The Wall Street Journal ...

US urges NATO to build 'cyber shield'

September 15, 2010

NATO must build a "cyber shield" to protect the transatlantic alliance from any Internet threats to its military and economic infrastructures, a top US defence official said Wednesday.

Recommended for you

Netherlands bank customers can get vocal on payments

August 1, 2015

Are some people fed up with remembering and using passwords and PINs to make it though the day? Those who have had enough would prefer to do without them. For mobile tasks that involve banking, though, it is obvious that ...

Power grid forecasting tool reduces costly errors

July 30, 2015

Accurately forecasting future electricity needs is tricky, with sudden weather changes and other variables impacting projections minute by minute. Errors can have grave repercussions, from blackouts to high market costs. ...

Microsoft describes hard-to-mimic authentication gesture

August 1, 2015

Photos. Messages. Bank account codes. And so much more—sit on a person's mobile device, and the question is, how to secure them without having to depend on lengthy password codes of letters and numbers. Vendors promoting ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.