Peter Beaumont, The Guardian
TheÂ US military has appointed its first senior general to direct cyber warfare â€“ despite fears that the move marks another stage in the militarisation of cyberspace.
The newly promoted four-star general, Keith Alexander, takes charge of the Pentagon’s ambitious and controversial new Cyber Command, designed to conduct virtual combat across the world’s computer networks. He was appointed on Friday afternoon in a low-key ceremony at Fort Meade, in Maryland.
The creation of America’s most senior cyber warrior comes just days after the US air force disclosed that some 30,000 of its troops had been re-assigned from technical support “to the frontlines of cyber warfare”.
The creation of Cyber Command is in response to increasing anxiety over the vulnerability of the US’s military and other networks to a cyber attack.
James Miller, the deputy under-secretary of defence for policy, has hinted that the US might consider a conventional military response to certain kinds of online attack.
Although Alexander pledged during his confirmation hearings before the Senate committee on armed services last month that Cyber Command would not contribute to the militarisation of cyberspace, the committee’s chairman, Senator Carl Levin expressed concern that both Pentagon doctrine, and the legal framework for online operations, had failed to keep pace with rapid advances in cyber warfare.
In particular Levin voiced concern that US cyber operations to combat online threats to the US, routed through neutral third countries, “could have broad and damaging consequences” to wider American interests.
Plans for Cyber Command were originally conceived under President George W Bush. Since taking office Barack Obama has embraced the theme of cyber security, describing it last year as “one of the most serious economic and national security challenges [the US faces] as a nation”.
During his confirmation hearing, Alexander said that the Pentagon’s networks were being targeted by “hundreds of thousands of probes every day” adding that he had “been alarmed by the increase, especially in this year”.
Cyber warfare has increased rapidly in scale and sophistication with China accused of being at the forefront of prominent recent attacks, including the targeting of Google and 20 other companies last year as well as “Titan Rain” in 2003 â€“ a series of coordinated attacks on US networks. Russian and North Korean hackers have also been accused of large-scale attacks.
Moscow was accused of being behind a massive cyber assault on Estonia in 2007 â€“ the second largest cyber warfare operation ever conducted.
To read more, visit: http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2010/may/23/us-appoints-cyber-warfare-general
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