Although yet to be formally announced, a report by the Washington Post reveals plans by the Department of Defense to bolster its Cyber Command unit. The Pentagon's cyber defense force is currently comprised of roughly 900 military and civilian personnel, but that number will be increased to 4,900 over the next "several years", say anonymous officials familiar with the matter.
The five-fold increase in staff will be driven in part by the creation of three brand-new, specialized units: Combat Mission Forces, Cyber Protection Forces and National Mission Forces. The protection unit will focus on securing DoD networks while its National Mission Forces branch will aim to protect domestic security and economic interests such as power grids. The remaining department, Combat Mission Forces, will be Cyber Command's International attack dog -- it'll be used to assist in offensive operations abroad.
The U.S. military's expansion of nerds like results from the rapidly increasing number of cyber attacks launched each year. Some of those attacks have also embarrassed the U.S. government, like McKinnon's military network intrusion and the recent defacement of the U.S. Sentencing Commission's website which allowed visitors to play asteroids on ussc.gov.
Cyber Command was created to tackle issues like these head on just a few years ago, but according to officials, the agency spends much of its resources fleshing out policies, frameworks and legal definitions rather than battling cyber threats in the field. The addition of a few thousand staff members should help the agency focus more on active security. It's unclear how Cyber Command will compliment the NSA, seeing as their goals overlap in some areas.
In 2010, the U.S. Secretary of Defense voiced his concerns about "huge" cyber threats looming in our future. With the developed world relying so much on sophisticated technologies prone to hacking, it seems there is an increasingly palpable danger where cyberspace and physical space converge.
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