The increased use of cyberattacks as a political instrument reflects a dangerous trend in international relations. Vulnerable data systems present state and non-state actors with an enticing opportunity to strike the United States and its interests. During a conflict, the Defense Department assumes that a potential adversary
will seek to target U.S. or allied critical infrastructure and military networks to gain a strategic advantage. Beyond the attacks described above, a sophisticated actor could target an industrial control system (ICS) on a public utility to affect public safety, or enter a network to manipulate health records to affect an individual’s well-being. A disruptive, manipulative, or destructive cyberattack could present a significant risk to U.S. economic and national security if lives are lost, property destroyed, policy objectives harmed, or economic interests affected.
Leaders must take steps to mitigate cyber risks. Governments, companies, and organizations must carefully prioritize the systems and data that they need to protect, assess risks and hazards, and make prudent investments in cybersecurity and cyber defense capabilities to achieve their security goals and objectives. Behind these defense investments, organizations of every kind must build business continuity plans and be ready to operate in a degraded cyber environment where access to networks and data is uncertain. To mitigate risks in cyberspace requires a comprehensive strategy to counter and if necessary withstand disruptive and destructive attacks.
Defending the United States in Cyberspace
In concert with other agencies, the United States’ Department of Defense (DoD) is responsible for defending the U.S. homeland and U.S. interests from attack, including attacks that may occur in cyberspace. In a manner consistent with U.S. and international law, the Department of Defense seeks to deter attacks and defend the United States against any adversary that seeks to harm U.S. national interests during times of peace, crisis, or conflict. To this end the Defense Department has developed capabilities for cyber operations and is integrating those capabilities into the full array of tools that the United States government uses to defend U.S. national interests, including diplomatic, informational, military, economic, financial, and law enforcement tools.
The May 2011 Department of Defense Strategy for Operating in Cyberspace guided the Defense Department’s cyber activities and operations in support of U.S. national interests over the last four years. This new strategy sets prioritized strategic goals and objectives for DoD’s cyber activities and missions to achieve over the next five years. It focuses on building capabilities for effective cybersecurity and cyber operations to defend DoD networks, systems, and information; defend the nation against cyberattacks of significant consequence; and support operational and contingency plans. This strategy builds on previous decisions regarding DoD’s Cyber Mission Force and cyber workforce development and provides new and specific guidance to mitigate anticipated risks and capture opportunities to strengthen U.S. national security.
As a matter of first principle, cybersecurity is a team effort within the U.S. Federal government. To succeed in its missions the Defense Department must operate in partnership with other Departments and Agencies, international allies and partners, state and local governments, and, most importantly, the private sector.
To support its missions in cyberspace, the Defense Department conducts a range of activities outside of cyberspace to improve collective cybersecurity and protect U.S. interests. For example, the Defense Department cooperates with agencies of the U.S government, with the private sector, and with our international partners to share information, build alliances and partnerships, and foster norms of responsible behavior to improve global strategic stability.
Information sharing and interagency coordination. To secure and advance U.S. interests in cyberspace, DoD seeks to share information and coordinate with U.S. government agencies in an integrated fashion on a range of cyber activities. For example, if DoD learns of malicious cyber activities that will affect important U.S. networks and systems that are vital for U.S. national and economic security or public safety, DoD supports agencies like the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) as they reach out to U.S. entities, and often other countries, to share threat information such as technical indicators of a potential attack. Such information sharing can significantly improve an organization’s ability to defend itself against a broad range of cyberattacks. In addition to sharing information, DoD partners with other agencies of the U.S. government to synchronize operations and to share lessons-learned and cybersecurity best- practices. This includes incident management and network defense response.
Build bridges to the private sector. From application developers to Internet Services Providers, private companies provide the goods and services that make up cyberspace. The Defense Department relies on the private sector to build its networks, provide cybersecurity services, and research and Mr. Joe Sciabica and Maj. Gen. J. Kevin McLaughlin sign an Air Force Civil Engineer Center-Air Forces Cyber collaboration agreement. The initiative is designed to enhance the security of industrial control systems that support critical Air Force infrastructures around the world. (U.S. Air Force photo by Shannon Carabajal) develop advanced capabilities. The Defense Department has benefited from private sector innovation throughout its history. Going forward, DoD will work closely with the private sector to validate and commercialize new ideas for cybersecurity for the Department.
Building alliances, coalitions, and partnerships abroad. The Defense Department engages in a broad array of activities to improve cybersecurity and cyber operations capacity abroad. DoD helps U.S. allies and partners to understand the cyber threats they face and to build the cyber capabilities necessary to defend their networks and data. Allies and partners also often have complementary capabilities that can augment those of the United States, and the United States seeks to build strong alliances and coalitions to counter potential adversaries’ cyber activities. Strategically, a unified coalition sends a message that the United States and its allies and partners are aligned in collective defense. In addition to the Five Eyes treaty partners, DoD works closely with key partners in the Middle East, the Asia-Pacific, and Europe to understand the cybersecurity environment and build cyber defense capacity.
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