TechNet Asia-Pacific Online Show Daily

October 27, 2010
Day 1: Cyberspace Dominates Security Concerns, By Robert K. Ackerman, SIGNAL Magazine
E-mail About the Author

Quote of the Day:
“You can’t command and control that domain [IT] unless you can see into it, sense inside it and control it.”—Adm. Robert F. Willard, USN, commander of the U.S. Pacific Command

Adm. Robert F. Willard, USN, commander of the U.S. Pacific Command, warns the audience at TechNet Asia-Pacific 2010 of the threat to cyberspace.

TechNet Asia-Pacific 2010 in Honolulu, Hawaii, began with a warning about cyberspace from the man tasked with ensuring regional security throughout the vast Asia-Pacific region. Adm. Robert F. Willard, USN, commander of the U.S. Pacific Command, told the Tuesday breakfast audience that network situational awareness is an essential discipline that largely is being overlooked. He warned that military networks may become useless in battle if operators do not know what is happening inside cyberspace.

“In command and control, you can’t control what you can’t see, and you must be able to control everything in these domains,” Adm. Willard said.

He cited as an example a recent area exercise that included experts from the U.S. Cyber Command, industry and other organizations. Despite these experts working on the cyberspace element weeks before the exercise began, officials had visibility into only 50 percent of cyberspace. Worse, leadership had the ability to sense and command in only 10 percent.

“You can’t command and control that domain unless you can see into it, sense inside it and control it,” the admiral declared.

Saying that he has been “a C2 [command and control] zealot for some time, Adm. Willard recalled that the information age came upon the military 30 years ago “in almost a subtle and not very organized way.” With the advent of the Internet, the military is using networks with the expectation that they will support the force in wartime.

Adm. Willard’s cautionary remarks were expanded by Vice Adm. Richard W. Hunt, USN, commander of the U.S. Third Fleet. Adm. Hunt warned the Tuesday luncheon audience that a denial of U.S. military cyber capabilities would cripple U.S. forces to the extent that they would not be able to conduct operations effectively.

“Cyber is the key spot in virtually every warfighting discussion and planning I’ve been in since I got to third fleet,” he declared. “But, the focus now is on computers over comms, and that’s a problem.”

Without vital information delivery, the force actually might be worse off than it was before the advent of network-centric operations. Many systems are built around information technology, and a loss of data would leave them useless. As examples, Adm. Hunt cited precision-guided weapons that rely on global positioning system data and systems that rely on reach-back for logistics and maintenance.

Adm. Hunt echoed Adm. Willard’s comments about network situational awareness, and added that cyber forces must be trained to respond quickly. The thought process has not evolved to understand cyber attack, and the ability to respond is not as clear as it was when the threat was kinetic.

Adm. Hunt called for industry to partner with the military, stating that the knowledge base to make proper network decisions resides more in industry than in the military. “Your active help is requested,” he said to private sector members of the audience.

Cyberspace concerns extend throughout the Asia-Pacific region, and they increasingly are playing key roles in how nations define security—and threats. An afternoon panel of experts from the Asia-Pacific Center for Security Studies discussed that and other issues that compound stability efforts in the vast region.

Dr. J. Scott Hauger, associate professor at the center, described cyber security as the top problem facing the region. Society is increasingly dependent on cyber, and thus increasingly vulnerable to cyber threats. Cyber attacks can paralyze commerce; they can be used to weaponize infrastructure; and they can create panic, distrust and exploitable instability, he warned. Saying that too many cyber defense activities are the work of individuals, Hauger called for international forums to coordinate countermeasures, as well as the creation of international treaties on cyberwarfare similar to those on nuclear weapons.

India is one nation that is worried about cyber attacks, reported Shyamsunder Tekwani, an associate professor for counterterrorism, international security, media and conflict at the center. Tekwani made his remarks in the context of an overview of security throughout the South Asia region.

He offered that India’s greatest threat comes from home-grown extremist groups rather than from external sources, and he cited Hindu extremists as the most dangerous. These groups have been largely responsible for Muslim terror because of the way they have treated Muslims throughout India. Many Muslim attacks in India are a direct response to the activities of Hindu extremists, Tekwani charged.

While China has not been viewed as India’s primary threat, Chinese actions in recent months have generated concern in India, Tekwani noted. Other panelists discussed China and its relations with neighbors. While the panelists agreed that China has been behaving badly lately, Charlie Salmon, foreign policy advisor with the center, offered that China and the United States are unlikely to fall into conflict because the Chinese leadership knows it is not in the nation’s best interest. China has no reason to adopt game-changing strategies with regard to U.S. military power in Pacific because it has too many challenges at home to upset the regional security status quo. “They’re smart enough to realize that, if they tried to do that even over the next 30 or 40 years, they would not be successful,” he said.

Salmon called for the United States to strengthen its existing bilateral relationships and expand relationships with other nations, particularly through existing organizations, he offered. And, the United States should use the six-party talks, which include China, as a nucleus for a Northeast Asia security dialogue.

Those six-party talks focus on North Korea, and no conference on Asia-Pacific security would be complete without a focus on the rogue nation. Adm. Willard warned in his breakfast remarks that the world may be entering a dangerous period with North Korea. The country is entering a period of leadership transition, the last of which covered 20 years. When Kim Jong-Il took the reins, North Korea engaged in a series of violent attacks on its neighbors ranging from assassinations to an airliner bombing. His actions served to strengthen his standing with the country’s military, and his designated heir Kim Jong-Un may follow the same path. With Kim Jong-Il in failing health, the transition is likely to be shorter but no less violent and destructive.

Wednesday at TechNet Asia-Pacific 2010:
Addresses on DISA and intelligence issues, along with panels covering industry and warfighter needs.