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Ask Lt. Col. John Bircher About Cyber Warfare Concepts 236

The Air Force is not the only U.S. military branch trying to come to grips with the electronic side of warfare, both current and future. The U.S. Army Computer Network Operations (CNO)-Electronic Warfare (EW) Proponent (USACEWP), located at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas — home to the U.S. Army's Combined Arms Center — serves as the Army's hub for cyber-electronic concepts and capabilities. This is the organization responsible for developing doctrine, materiel and training to prepare the Army for cyber-electronic engagements. For example, USACEWP has developed training teams to ensure that U.S. commanders and soldiers around the world are fully informed of cyber-electronic capabilities at their disposal. Leading the Proponent's Futures branch is Lt. Col John "Chip" Bircher; Bircher entered the Army in 1989 as an Infantry officer, then served in various command and staff positions, most recently Information Operations (IO). He was the IO Chief for the 25th Infantry Division (Light), Hawaii, and Director of IO for Combined Joint Task Force -76, Bagram, Afghanistan. If you want to know more about the realities and challenges that face an armed, global IT department in a time when electronic warfare is ever more important and dangerous, now's your chance to ask Lt. Col. Bircher some questions. We'll pass on the highest-moderated questions for Lt. Col. Bircher to answer. Usual Slashdot interview rules apply.
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Ask Lt. Col. John Bircher About Cyber Warfare Concepts

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  • by Lilith's Heart-shape ( 1224784 ) on Thursday June 12, 2008 @01:24PM (#23766793) Homepage
    Wait a second. Aren't members of the John Birch Society [] called "John Birchers"? If so, I'd say this poor bastard has an unfortunate name.
  • Technique? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Manip ( 656104 ) on Thursday June 12, 2008 @01:25PM (#23766821)
    Does the US Army take advantage of traditional misconfiguration and social engineering techniques in order to compromise a network or are the US government developing a home grown list of exploits to gain access to foreign government systems?
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by dreamchaser ( 49529 )
      Good question, but I highly doubt he'll answer any questions directly relating to methods used.
      • I have more doubts. (Score:2, Informative)

        by khasim ( 1285 )
        I doubt that he'll answer ANYTHING with any details. This will be a recruiting and PR piece. His "answers" will be vetted by at least 3 different agencies and any content will have been removed.
      • Damn! (Score:3, Funny)

        by Colin Smith ( 2679 )
        And I wanted to know the fastest way to level up.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      If by "social engineering" you mean "torture", then yes, I'm pretty sure the US excels at social engineering.
  • Legal Ramifications (Score:5, Interesting)

    by muellerr1 ( 868578 ) on Thursday June 12, 2008 @01:27PM (#23766847) Homepage
    How does the military ensure that it is operating within the law regarding online military offensive activities? Are there any laws or oversight, as such? If so, how are those laws and/or oversight affected by a declaration of war?
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by 0racle ( 667029 )
      I'm willing to bet they don't really give a damn.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by tooler ( 36824 )
      Since war never gets declared anymore, I doubt they've even thought about your latter question.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Xaositecte ( 897197 )
      In the military, there are legal assistants whose entire job is to ensure military actions are only carried out against legal targets. In theory, you would stand next to the commander and make the call when an important call has to be made. In conventional operations, this means making sure you know what's a hospital or orphanage, what is an acceptable target, what zones the politicians have declared off-limits for troops to go into, etc. Around 95% of the time, this actually works, and the military actu
  • by BadIdea ( 1218060 ) <> on Thursday June 12, 2008 @01:28PM (#23766871) Homepage
    I'm interested in why so many sensitive networks are even hooked up to the internet in the first place, or why trivial systems are so often bundled with sensitive ones under the same security frameworks.

    Why aren't there more isolated networks that would require physical contact or interception to get to in the first place? Do sensitive systems really need any connection at all to the conventional internet in the first place?

    I know that many places in the DoD do take this approach (people having one computer for safe email and browsing, and a completely different computer for sensitive intel), and certainly it's more expensive and less convenient. But when the internet is basically just a big pathway leading directly to your backdoor, why take any chance at all, ever?
    • by Lev13than ( 581686 ) on Thursday June 12, 2008 @02:10PM (#23767595) Homepage
      I'm interested in why so many sensitive networks are even hooked up to the internet in the first place, or why trivial systems are so often bundled with sensitive ones under the same security frameworks.

      Good point - I guess if the Internet had been designed by the military (or, say, by a military research group) it certainly wouldn't have ended up this way...
      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by BadIdea ( 1218060 )
        You probably meant that as a joke, but that actually might be a good point: perhaps the internet's origins in the military have led to some overexposure in modern use that wouldn't have otherwise been the case if it had its roots elsewhere.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by qbzzt ( 11136 )
      Why aren't there more isolated networks that would require physical contact or interception to get to in the first place?

      Maybe they have people who can go places and attach wireless / satellite access points to various networks. It's not a safe job, but the military has plenty of jobs that aren't safe.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Peter Mork ( 951443 )

      It is often the case that the sensitive systems aren't directly connected to the Internet. Instead, the sensitive system gets inadvertently connected to another (less-sensitive) system that is connected to the Internet. The second systems gets compromised, which gives the attacker a way to attack the first system.

      For example, as I understand it, a nuclear plant was taken offline by attackers. The control system was not connected to the Internet. However, the management system (payroll, timecards, etc

    • Sometimes, safer solutions require time and/or hardware that is not available.
      Long-distance communications over sat-link is cool, but expensive and limited in capacity.
      Sometimes a simple e-mail has a better chance of getting to its intended destination.
  • What is that? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by khasim ( 1285 ) <> on Thursday June 12, 2008 @01:29PM (#23766877)
    What, specifically, would be a "cyber-electronic engagement".

    Include examples.

    Compare/contrast with traditional forms of intelligence gathering (wiretaps, listening devices, etc) and their counter-measures.
  • Interview Question (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 12, 2008 @01:30PM (#23766905)
    With the political tilt as it is, a large part of the software development community is likely prejudiced against helping our country. With this in mind, how do you recruit the most creative and skilled people that this country has to offer?
    • by Daniel Dvorkin ( 106857 ) * on Thursday June 12, 2008 @01:56PM (#23767365) Homepage Journal
      With the political tilt as it is, a large part of the software development community is likely prejudiced against helping our country.

      You made a typo there. Here's a correction:

      With the political tilt as it is, a large part of the software development community is likely inclined against helping politicians use the Army as a tool to fight wars which harm our country.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward
        No, he's pretty much right. I gave up DARPA contracts and the opportunity to work in the Defense Industry recently because I felt like I had blood on my hands. It wasn't because I thought that the war was bad for America. It's because I didn't want to program guidance systems which lead to the direct death and maiming of civilians. It's because I didn't want to write simulators that teach our soldiers to kill without showing them ramifications of that killing. It's because I don't want to have a hand in col
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      a large part of the software development community is likely prejudiced against helping our country

      Say what?

      If you mean to say lots of us don't support invading foreign countries without causus belli, or we start complaining at the suspension of habeas corpus and being jailed indefinitely without charges, then you're confusing "helping our country" with supporting the government.

      Defending Liberty and Supporting our President are not necessarily the same thing.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by qbzzt ( 11136 )
      With this in mind, how do you recruit the most creative and skilled people that this country has to offer?

      Probably he'd rather recruit people who will obey orders to the best of their abilities as long as those orders are legal. I don't think the military is interested in people who want an option to leave if they don't agree with their orders.

      There are people who don't make good soldiers. I'm one of them. That doesn't mean that out of a population of ~300 million he won't find the people he's looking for.
  • Hacker war... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Notquitecajun ( 1073646 ) on Thursday June 12, 2008 @01:31PM (#23766933)
    I doubt you could REALLY answer this, but Is the US military playing any sort of role in the semi-undergroung "hacker war" that appears to be going on between China and the US?
    • And if and if ... (Score:5, Interesting)

      by khasim ( 1285 ) <> on Thursday June 12, 2008 @01:59PM (#23767409)
      And if there actually is a "Hacker War" between us ... and if our military is currently playing a role in such ... are there any civilian applications that will be released to help defend our non-military assets (corporations, education, etc)?

      Example: the NSA has worked on SELinux.
      • And if there actually is a "Hacker War" between us ... and if our military is currently playing a role in such ... are there any civilian applications that will be released to help defend our non-military assets (corporations, education, etc)?

        If you skip down about 6 articles on the front page (YMMV), you'll see:
        Data Breach Study Spanning 500 Break-Ins Released []
        How about (1) Nearly nine in 10 corporate data breaches could have been prevented had reasonable security measures been in place,

        The IT community has had a hell of a time convincing computer users that security is important..
        And you can't exactly force people to take reasonable security precautions to protect their systems.

  • With an ever increasing amount of information on the battle field, how would you limit risk when Murphy's law is not functioning in your favour?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 12, 2008 @01:32PM (#23766957)
    to fight. Will we have to go to basic training?

    If so, would basic training be to train us to stay up all night, living on pizza, soda, Skittles, and porn?

    If so, where do I sign up?!?

  • by El Cubano ( 631386 ) on Thursday June 12, 2008 @01:33PM (#23766961)

    Since the Air Force is the U.S. military branch claiming dominance in "cyberspace" (along with air and space), how do you view the Army's relationship with the Air Force in "cyberspace"? Will the Army seek to take over all of the "cyberspace warfare", carve out its own niche in cyberspace, or peacefully coexist with the Air Force?

    With respect to leadership in this area across the DoD, do you feel that the Air Force being denied the program executive role for all DoD UAV endeavors represents an opportunity for the Army increase its role with respect to UAVs (as many people see cyberspace and UAVs to be inextricably linked)?

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      What you're talking about is similar to the question of who "dominates" the strategic warfare front. Rather than one dominating, each service has its own forces for that mission area, but they all typically fall under the respective Unified Command.

      The US Strategic Command often, not always, has its commander come from either the Air Force or the Navy (with one exception, Marine General James Cartwright), as they have the preponderance of strategic nuclear weapons (AF with ICBMs and long-range strategic
    • Will the Army seek to take over all of the "cyberspace warfare", carve out its own niche in cyberspace, or peacefully coexist with the Air Force?

      Or peacefully coexist. Ha!

      The Air Force is looking for ways to stay relevant in a world where they've essentially over-achieved to the point that nobody can really challenge them for air dominance.

      IMO, the only thing that would make them coexist peacefully with the Army is if the Pentagon buries the tensions & rivalries under a pile of cash.

    • by moxley ( 895517 )
      Yeah... I guess being able to sit in a chair and fly a UAV into battle wasn't helping the chAir Force get rid of that unflattering pseudonym that was perfected so many years ago...
  • Attacks... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Notquitecajun ( 1073646 ) on Thursday June 12, 2008 @01:33PM (#23766971)
    Without diving into details that compromise security, can you reveal anything about the types or quantities of attacks that the US military is able to fend off, and how often they are faced?
    • by Sloppy ( 14984 ) on Thursday June 12, 2008 @02:10PM (#23767601) Homepage Journal

      Without diving into details that compromise security

      Can you imagine what might have happened, if you had not so qualified your question? He might have let the cat out of the bag!

      Personally, I would have phrased it this way: "Please tell us everything you're up to. (It's ok. We're cool.)"

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by legirons ( 809082 )

        Personally, I would have phrased it this way: "Please tell us everything you're up to. (It's ok. We're cool.)"

        Actually, that's probably a very good question to start the interview with...
  • China (Score:5, Interesting)

    by je ne sais quoi ( 987177 ) on Thursday June 12, 2008 @01:44PM (#23767157)
    What is the U.S. Army doing to protect U.S. sensitive information from the frequent number of cyber-attacks originating from inside the People's Republic of China? Is it primarily defensive?
  • Recruitment (Score:5, Interesting)

    by caljorden ( 166413 ) on Thursday June 12, 2008 @01:47PM (#23767199)
    Does the US Air Force, or any branch of the armed services, currently recruit for cyber-related positions directly? Or is it a requirement that all members come out of the standard armed services personnel? If there is currently no system for recruiting the best and brightest CS/IT/Security personnel from the civilian population, would that ever be considered?
    • Re:Recruitment (Score:5, Insightful)

      by db32 ( 862117 ) on Thursday June 12, 2008 @02:14PM (#23767651) Journal
      I can answer this one for you. Yes they do. The Air Force in particular has been getting much more active in advertising it's increasing need for the intel/cyber style missions. You basically go through the same process everyone else does.

      1. Go to the recruiter and say "I want to do XYZ". If you are lucky you will get a recruiter that isn't a slimeball and will actually help you do specifically what you want. Hit or miss here, some are really amazing folks that know how to work things, others are asshats that know how to sleaze kids in. Do your research first. Non military and recruiters are about the last people you want to talk to for "how it really is" information, one is clueless and comes up with nonsense stories, the other has a clue and comes up with nonsense stories. Currently active or recently retired people will have the best information, though it will frequently be a bit dated. It is best to refine your questions with them and then ask specific pointed questions of the recruiters.

      2. Go to the MEPS (Military Entrance Processing Station I believe) and do the tests. ASVAB being the big one here, all branches use these scores in one way or another to determine what jobs you are qualified to do. This isn't exactly a hard test by any stretch, more than anything it gives the military a guess as to how complex of a school they can send you to without wasting money on you failing out. You will also go through the whole physical thing, eye tests, piss tests, blah blah blah.

      3. Go to the career manager folks. Each branch has a different name for them and this part will typically happen at the MEPS. Again, much like recruiters they are hit or miss. However, they have a bit better of an excuse. They aren't there to convince you to join so much as for you to tell them what specific job you want to do. These are the people that look up your scores and compare that to job requirements and then check for openings in that job. They process tons of people per day, many of which have no idea what they want to do other than "work on computers" or "fix planes" or whatever. The key to coming out of this is to do your research well before you go. Narrow down what you want to do to a few jobs and know their code for whichever branch you are talking to. These people are experts at human resources stuff, not the details of whatever career you want. They probably won't be able to answer much unless they came from that career or know someone in that career. The best bet is to get your recruiter to arrange some time to meet people in the career field you are interested in and get the answers that way.

      4. Go to basic training. Everyone goes, no way past that.

      5. Go to your school. Each branch does this a bit differently, but after basic training you will go to the school for your chosen job. This could be 2 weeks long, it could be 2 years long, all depends on the job.

      6. Pray for your assignment. Now you are in, you have the career you want, and now it is a roll of the dice. You go where they need your career, period. There are a number of programs to finagle your way around to places you want, but don't expect any of them to help you much in your early days. Your best bet here is to do a damned good job, don't be a fuckup, and let your supervisors know what your goals are. Good supervisors will help you get where you want to go. Above all else, don't expect it to happen quickly.

      National Guard units basically follow the same steps, except for the assignment process. With the Guard you will be joining a specific unit when you enlist. So you will already know exactly what your assignment will be. The Guard units are able to do much more targeted recruiting because of this. The Active Duty world you kind of go into a big pot and stay there unless you managed to get into special assignments (usually by being really good at what you do and leaning forward for opportunities).
      • Re:Recruitment (Score:5, Insightful)

        by TubeSteak ( 669689 ) on Thursday June 12, 2008 @03:31PM (#23768979) Journal

        1. Go to the recruiter and say "I want to do XYZ". If you are lucky you will get a recruiter that isn't a slimeball and will actually help you do specifically what you want. Hit or miss here, some are really amazing folks that know how to work things, others are asshats that know how to sleaze kids in.
        If it isn't part of the enlistment contract that you sign, the military can make you peel potatoes and wash dishes for the term of your enlistment and you have zero recourse.

        "But the recruiter promised me" means absolutely nothing.
        If it isn't in writing, don't expect it to happen.
        The corollary to this is: if it is in writing and you have to sue, at best expect a Pyrrhic victory.
      • after basic training get sent to infantry school then off to the front lines.

        or #7 Get moved off your assignment and send to the front lines. As some who got hurt there is taking your assignment.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by fprintf ( 82740 ) []

      If you look at past interviews with the Air Force and Army, you will find that they work with a significant number of contractors. So you do not need to be "in the armed forces" to work on anti-cyber terrorism.

      Obviously you need to be able to get a security clearance.
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by BadIdea ( 1218060 )
      This is a really important question going forward. A lot of military recruitment seems to still be somewhat centered around the sorts of "grunt"-based wars we were fighting decades ago. But there's no reason a fat out of shape guy who happens to be a brilliant programmer needs to go through boot camp and get shouted at by a drill instructor, or learn how to march, just to be part of a group devoted to fighting cyber-terrorism.

      Obviously quasi-military operations need lots more in the way of security cleara
      • by samkass ( 174571 )
        Or will the military continue to hire defense contractors to utilize their expertise in these matters? (Full disclosure: I work for a defense contractor.) The Air Force, for the most part, doesn't have their officers design aircraft parts, either.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 12, 2008 @01:48PM (#23767229)
    Conventional military is bound by the Geneva convention. To date, there is no international law governing military info-war. Are you therefore no longer bound not to attack civilian targets? Is scrambling hospital records to create civilian deaths by mistreatment considered a valid attack?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 12, 2008 @01:51PM (#23767275)
    the worlds most insecure operating sytem? Seriously, I just had to go through the Army accreditation process at work, and all the guidelines basically say that Windows is the most secure according to the army. Several of the policies do nothing to increase security but are windows only features, a not so subtle hint that if you want to be "secure" you should be using Windows. The policies also states that since open source is "unsupported" you should use a commercial OS unless you can find "support" for the open source software. The scrutiny that the Linux/Unix machines are put through is MUCH more than Windows machines are. Windows machines are basically said to be "secure" if you apply all the patches and set a couple of settings. Its as if the Army considers Windows to be the most secure instead of the least secure. The whole security accreditation process seemed to be a giant push for us to move to Windows, which means that in my opinion the whole exercise was intellectually bankrupt. Why does the Army continue to push windows despite its absolutely horrendous security track record?
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by gardyloo ( 512791 )
      Interesting, because at the DoE- (mainly) and DoD- (partly) funded lab at which I work, Linux and Unix (and things like OSX) users are given much *less* scrutiny than those using Windows.
      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        Yeah, I've always found it hilarious that the IA (Information Assurance) guys tout the glorious impenetrable securities of Windows, even though nothing missions critical runs on Windows.

        Ironically, the reason they are pushing Windows is not the security. It's the control. With windows you can remotely disable pretty much anything within a Domain. A person could have administrative access on their Domain attached work station and still not be able to do anything beyond what the Domain administrator allows.

        • If you have root access on a Linux machine, they can't do anything short of removing your physical workstation to keep you from installing, or even compiling, your own software.
          I think the NSA would disagree with you []...
  • Jurisdiction? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Caerdwyn ( 829058 ) on Thursday June 12, 2008 @01:54PM (#23767333) Journal
    Given that the most likely targets for cyber warfare are civilian targets, and that the perpetrators will likely be either non-government organizations or non-military employees of foreign governments, how do you see the jurisdiction question playing out? In particular, at what point are there handoffs in investigation, arrest, and prosecution between the US military, the FBI, and local authorities of affected civilian targets?
  • by introspekt.i ( 1233118 ) on Thursday June 12, 2008 @01:56PM (#23767361)
    What steps is the Army taking to avoid overlap with the Air Force's "cyber warfare" program(s)? Is avoiding overlap considered necessary, or is redundancy considered a good thing? Are there plans to collaborate on large scale with the Air Force, or keep the programs isolated from one another?
  • Can we see some definitive numbers on what the pay scale will be? For example there is []
    • by jmkaza ( 173878 )
      All of the Armed Forces use the same pay chart. An E5 in the Army makes the same as an E5 in the Air Force.
  • Source Code (Score:3, Interesting)

    by g0bshiTe ( 596213 ) on Thursday June 12, 2008 @01:58PM (#23767391)
    In the event of a "Cyber Attack" (read we go after them) would the task force secure source code, to search for hidden vectors of attack?

    I realize this is based on the assumption that we know what OS and programs they are running, but Windows for instance, it's reasonable to assume that most computer users use some form of it either legally aquired or illegally.
  • Timing and relevancy (Score:5, Interesting)

    by zappepcs ( 820751 ) on Thursday June 12, 2008 @01:59PM (#23767411) Journal
    It's common knowledge that what we call the Internet was suckled by the military. Black-hat and white-hat security conferences and practices have been an active part of Internet security for over a decade.

    Can you explain what seems to be the US Military arriving at the game in the third inning?

    Having had TSEC and observed security processes and procedures, such as tempest precautions some time ago, I'm having trouble understanding why the 'cyber defenses' of the US Military only now seem to be actually realized.

    Is the delay due to funding? Priorities? or simply to underestimation of what the rest of the world was up to all this time?

    Please be as specific as you are able to be.

    Thank you.
    • The military's been in it all along. It's just that the word Cyber finally got cool. Soon they'll turn it into a verb: Private, cyber that paradigm shift NOW!!

      Never forget that the government, and especially the military, is just a big, inefficient, management heavy 1970's style corporation.

  • by advocate_one ( 662832 ) on Thursday June 12, 2008 @02:01PM (#23767463)
    no text
  • Slashdotter (Score:2, Interesting)

    by slotdawg ( 1301999 )
    Do you frequent slashdot often to read news and breakthroughs in IT? How does the government disseminate whether threats of attack are legitimate or just hoaxes?
    • How does the government disseminate whether threats of attack are legitimate or just hoaxes?
      I suspect that should be "determine", not "disseminate", but either is an interesting question.
  • Threat Assessment (Score:5, Interesting)

    by mykepredko ( 40154 ) on Thursday June 12, 2008 @02:07PM (#23767545) Homepage
    As I understand it, every military in the world assess the threat its opponents pose by their capabilities rather than perceived intents.

    How do you perform a threat assessment in the area of cyber-warfare where the physical weapons (as was pointed out in an earlier post) is the keyboard and mouse with much of technology being used as a threat being developed in the U.S?


  • by faloi ( 738831 ) on Thursday June 12, 2008 @02:10PM (#23767597)
    Do you foresee a high utilization of civilian contractors? Knowing that there are some restrictions on people that can be recruited into the Army for any number of reasons (asthma, medications, criminal records), do you see a need for either more lax recruiting guidelines for some of the "front line" troops in the cyber warfare field, or a higher use of civilian (or at least non-Army) personnels?
  • by Digital Ebola ( 29327 ) on Thursday June 12, 2008 @02:14PM (#23767649) Homepage

    One issue to cyber warfare is linguistics. How does a military unit overcome this? Does the unit consist of people skilled at the various languages used in theater plus the technical concepts required to execute, or are you forced to cooperate with any other agency?

    Also, agency cooperation: are there good relationships between the cyberwarfare units and the intelligence community, and can you say whether or not there are SOPs in place that would utilize cyberwarfare units in conjunction with a physical offensive, i.e. disable Three Gorges Dam right before an op.

    Thanks for the time!
  • Computer Literacy (Score:5, Interesting)

    by AioKits ( 1235070 ) on Thursday June 12, 2008 @02:17PM (#23767717)
    What level of computer literacy do you feel the Commander-In-Chief and those reporting to them should have in order to comfortably and accurately convey the importance of a given situation/threat the USACEWP encounters?
  • Daemon? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Viking Coder ( 102287 ) on Thursday June 12, 2008 @02:19PM (#23767743)
    Have you read the book "Daemon" [] by Leinad Zeraus? Or how about "The Footprints of God" [] by Greg Iles?
    Do you think The Singularity is approaching, and if so, do you think you're prepared for it?
  • by Starlet Monroe ( 512664 ) on Thursday June 12, 2008 @02:22PM (#23767811) Journal
    There's a "material" tag on the story pointing out an apparent typo. I can't ever seem to get tags to behave for me, so I'll post a reply instead. In military talk, "materiel" is a specific term to refer to the stuff we need to fight a battle. It has specific and distinct connotations in supply management, and it used correctly in this article's summary.
  • What do you do about the problem where a computer is informed that it has made a logic error and it starts spewing smoke and then explodes violently?
  • Are We At War? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Doc Ruby ( 173196 ) on Thursday June 12, 2008 @02:27PM (#23767895) Homepage Journal
    What is the "cyber command" doing to protect the US from current serious attacks on major Federal government sites, including the attacks on sensitive Congressional sites [] reported this week?

    Is there any traditional military precedent for tolerating these attacks to the extent we do? Is that hesitancy making us weaker, so our eventual delayed military (or "cyber-military") response will be compromised from winning the conflict to our satisfaction?

    At what point do these attacks constitute acts of war, does that need to be declared by Congress, and how does the "cyber command" change its response at that point?
  • by scorp1us ( 235526 ) on Thursday June 12, 2008 @02:27PM (#23767909) Journal
    We already know that the USAF has a cyber-warfare division. Given that all network attacks are fundamentally based in IP Packets, it stands to reason that the Army and USAF would be duplicating work, while creating an opportunity for lack of communication.

    Would you agree that a special, single cyber-defense branch should be created to assist all branches of the military as well as non-military?

    Generally the armed forces are never known for technical prowess. (They are more consumers than creators) The role of creation comes from contractors. Why shouldn't we rely on contractors to perform these functions when contractors already obtain top-secret clearances? Contractors compete for projects which ensures a level of cost limitation (lets face it, Cost+ rips off the tax payer), continual advancement (beyond what the enemy throws at us).

    Why should the armed forces be doing this in-house?

    • Clarifications: Cost+ was only possible by the large scale of operations. Any network based attack would not require the same scale of operations, meaning a small private team could provide significant value. Small private teams are plentiful, meaning an award of a Cost+ contract is unlikely.

      On 2nd thought, I retract my challenging questions because I don't want to be labeled an enemy combatant, stripped of my Habeus Corpus rights and thrown in GitMo for questioning the wisdom of the military and by constru
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      Mod parent up. A new "cyber-defense branch" is a valid answer to this new type of warfare. The NSA can't fill this role -- it is too strictly defined by secrecy. Part of warfare is calling the attackers out to the international public -- there's no other way to get international support for counter-attacks. The NSA is just too hidden for that. Obviously, the CIA can't fill the role for the same reasons. None of the existing military branches really fit the job.

      Traditionally, the armed forces are separated b
  • by UncleTogie ( 1004853 ) * on Thursday June 12, 2008 @02:37PM (#23768087) Homepage Journal

    In your work as Director of IO for Combined Joint Task Force -76, what were your greatest challenges in Afghanistan? What technology threats other than IEDs were your greatest concern?

  • by scorp1us ( 235526 ) on Thursday June 12, 2008 @02:47PM (#23768215) Journal
    Would you support the release of information and software (Like Security-Enhanced Linux from the NSA) regarding successful defensive configurations and strategies to the general public so that the tax payer can derive additional benefits from your work? Surely the private industries in this country are valuable and may be attacked in order to cause economic harm.

    What limitations or rules would you use for release of such information?
  • The Witty worm was specifically targeting a US Military instiution's intrusion detection systems []. Do you have any comments on this incident?
  • What part of your job is to defend US systems, and what to prepare to attack against systems used by opposing forces?

    Also, do you see the existence of your department as a possible deterrent for hostile organizations to use IT effectively?
  • People seem to be assuming you're some sort of internet vigilante or something. It occurs to me the such a unit has many options at its disposal, so, What is the task of your group?

    - Support operations for army units overseas (peacetime/wartime)
    - Independent internet warfare during war time (Say WW3)
    - Independent internet defense during peacetime
    - Independent Offense/intelligence gathering during peacetime
    - Consulting for companies/agencies hardening their networks
    - Finding backdoors in preparation for an e
  • The "hacking" of several Congressmens' computers, notably those that contained data on human rights and political dissidents, was in the news recently. The Chinese government has categorically denied any involvement despite the fact that the intrusions originated from Chinese IP address ranges.

    Do you believe they're telling the truth? More specifically, do you believe they are as "unskilled" as they claim to be along these lines?

  • Just wondering if the USACEWP (the Bircher Group) and the AFCC (Lord's group) have ever gamed off against one another, or do so routinely?

    If not, why the heck not?

    If so, who wins most?
  • Maintaining an edge in computer security is a never ending race between finding new vulnerabilities and patching them. Constantly finding new vulnerabilities just in case war breaks out tomorrow is an expensive endeavor - just like any other arms race but iterating much faster. Only two sort of people are motivated enough to invest enough in it to maintain a lead : intelligence agencies (which probably won't tell anyone about what they find) and organized criminals who are often the origin of the knowledge
  • What does Lt. Col. John Bircher know about cyber warfare concepts?

    we know that he knows how to "point and click".

If I have seen farther than others, it is because I was standing on the shoulders of giants. -- Isaac Newton