Internal Dangers Pose Biggest Cybersecurity Threat to Marines

March 30, 2012
By Rachel Eisenhower

Although outside adversaries constantly attempt to gain access to U.S. Defense Department networks, cybersecurity leaders within the Marine Corps agree that internal user errors and attempts to skirt security measures pose the biggest threat. News Editor Rita Boland discusses these dangers in her article "Cybersecurity, Marine Corps Style" in the March issue of SIGNAL Magazine.

Marine Corps cyber experts located in different regions head up the service's effort to keep its systems reliable and trustworthy: the Marine Corps Installations East (MCIEAST) Cyber Security Division, the cybersecurity personnel of Marine Corps Installations West (MCIWEST) and the Cyber Security Section of the Marine Corps Installation Pacific (MCIPAC). Although these groups face unique issues in the fight to keep data safe, they agree that looking inward is an important first step toward curbing attacks.

According to Carolyn Harrison, director of the MCIEAST Cyber Security Division, internal dangers, such as users falling for email scams or plugging in unauthorized devices, pose the greatest risk to network viability. Despite existing protocol and training efforts, systems users still fail to follow proper procedures. In addition, Harrison relates that some people deliberately violate security measures as a sort of challenge or game. "I would hope they realize that if something is blocked, it's for a good reason," says Harrison, but that is not always the case.

Internal misuse also ranks as the top cybersecurity threat for MCIWEST. The organization needs to protect the confidentiality, integrity and availability of data, says David Robbins, cyber security manager for the group, and an attack preventing information from flowing to a commander in a timely manner would be a nightmare scenario.

Additionally, cyberthreats constantly change and evolve, which means the Marine Corps must stay apprised of the latest enemy tactics. Threats change over time, but they never reduce in number, says Robbins. They only become more advanced and more difficult to detect. "Network users are on the front line and thus a key component in the defense in-depth approach to network security," he explains.

Despite being located outside of the United States, MCIPAC adheres to the same governing policies as its counterparts and deals with the same internal personnel problems. However,. the biggest fear of Michael Miglionico, MCIPAC cyber security manager, is a major assault from outside adversaries and the potential ramifications:

"When and if a cyberwar is initiated, these attacks will happen in seconds because of the speed of networks in today's world. Responding to them will require a huge effort to thwart [the threats] and protect our networks."

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