Greater Network Complexity Is Making Cybersecurity More Daunting

May 4, 2012
By Henry Kenyon

Better networks mean more opportunities for cybermarauders-and greater difficulty for network defense experts, noted the deputy commander of the U.S. Cyber Command. Lt. Gen. Robert Schmidle, USMC, described many of the command's security needs to the audience at AFCEA NOVA Naval IT Day on May 3.

Atop the command's list is better situational awareness in cyberspace. The general cited knowledge about network health, adversary space and "the gray area in between" as the criteria for successful cybersituational awareness.

Saying that defense in depth begins out where the adversaries are, Gen. Schmidle noted that the command also is pursuing an active defense with network-hunting software that seeks out threats that have penetrated past perimeter defenses. He related that the Global Information Grid (GIG) has been hit with hundreds of thousands of spear-phishing attacks at a rate of about 10,000 per week. It is harder to differentiate between state and non-state actors among cybermarauders, as both are resorting to similar approaches, the general added.

The command's efforts at cybersecurity are complicated by human resources issues. The command does not have enough people to do all that is needed in this realm, Gen. Schmidle said. It can be difficult to recruit the type of people who are expert in these fields, and even current training methods must be revamped. The general noted that cyber experts today are trained in either offensive or defensive information operations, and security clearance levels differ with the two disciplines. Future cyber experts must be trained in both offensive and defensive information operations, he stated.

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