Gen. Dempsey: Nations Preparing to Engage in Cyberwars on the Rise
Twenty nations have assembled military units dedicated to employing cyberweapons in times of war, Army Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said June 27.
In response, the U.S. military will add 4,000 cyber-operators to its ranks over the next four years. The Department of Defense will also invest $23 billion in network offense and defense over the same timeframe, he said at a Brookings Institution discussion on cybersecurity in Washington, D.C.
The cyberthreat is only growing worse, said Dempsey, the highest-ranking military officer in the United States. “The borderless nature of cyberspace means anyone anywhere in the world can use cyber to affect someone else,” he said.
Dempsey sidestepped a question about the alleged National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden. But he did address fears about the over-militarization of cyberspace.
“We can’t stop an attack unless we can see it,” he said. “I am confident that indicators of an impending attack could be shared in a way that preserves the privacy, the anonymity and civil liberties of network users.”
It will take legislation to significantly strengthen the nation’s ability to withstand cyber-attacks while still safeguarding liberty, he said.
Cyberthreats have escalated to become one of the most serious threats to not only the United States, but to nations worldwide, he said. Last year in Saudi Arabia, the shamoon virus wiped clean 30,000 hard drives at the state oil company, Saudi ARAMCO.
“We now live in a world of weaponized bits and bytes where an entire country can be disrupted by a click of a mouse,” Dempsey said. “The reality is that every day, adversaries are injecting malware into our network. The worst of this malware is equivalent to bullets and bombs.”
Cyber-attacks can create conflicts between states, within states and among non-state actors. While a nation may not engage in cyberconflict, global hacktivists can do so on its behalf, he said.
Dempsey said out of the 4,000 new cyberoperators the department hopes to hire, three teams will be created. One will use offensive capabilities to counter attacks against the United States. The second team will support combatant commanders on missions. The third will defend military network operations worldwide.
A “playbook of guidelines” for how to react should a cyber-attack take place is being discussed. Details of the guidelines are classified, he added.
Overall, U.S. cyberdefense plans are weak, he said.
Computer controlled industrial systems that operate the nation’s chemical, electrical, water and transport sectors have all been probed. “Since I became chairman [two years ago], intrusions into our critical infrastructure have increased 17-fold,” Dempsey said.
“The military that maintains the most agile and resilient networks will be the most affective in future war,” he said. “We still have work to do.”