Amidst all the talk about Libya today, two U.S. combatant commanders took a moment to bring cyber warfare in to the spotlight, calling for increased public private partnership on cyber matters due to the fact that the vast majority of cyber operations occur outside of the DoD's purview.
"What we're seeing here is a threat that is evolving from the old nuisance hackers, the thirteen year old in the basement down the street" to sophisticated terror group and state-sponsored cyber war, said U.S. Strategic Command boss Gen. Robert Kehler during a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing today.
Defining the role played by the government, the Pentagon and private industry in responding to these attacks is "the issue that's foremost on our plates these days," said Kehler. This is especially important since cyber "is largely in the public domain," he added.
At the heart of this issue is questions such as; how does the U.S. respond to a government-backed cyber attack against a private U.S. firm?
Until this is done, the Pentagon and federal government as a whole will not be able to respond to attacks "at network speed," added Kehler, who as chief of STRATCOM is the nation's top cyberwarfare officer.
"The next steps that we have to take is to have better situational awareness between the combatant commands and broader than that out into the public domain,' said Kehler.
The government must also recruit the best minds in cyber and figure out "this balance between our constitutional protections and our need to act on behalf of the nation with the appropriate civil authorities in the lead." In other words, how does the government monitor for malicious cyber activity while respecting U.S. citizen’s privacy rights?
What seems to be one definite trend here is an increasing partnership and information exchange and coordinate responses to cyber incidents between the government and private industry; from tech titans to the energy companies and banks that may be enticing targets in cyber warfare, said U.S. European Command chief and NATO commander Adm. Jim Stavridis during the same hearing.
"We have learned how to do joint operations, we are getting much better at interagency operations, I think a growth area in security is private-public and where those two things connect and cyber is probably the prime example of it," said Stavridis.