Rogers: Data Manipulation,
Non-State Actor Intrusions Are Coming Cyber Threats
By Cheryl Pellerin, DoD News,
Defense Media Activity.
Washington D.C. — (DoD
News) — November 19, 2015 — Two specific emerging challenges are among those
that concern Navy Adm. Mike Rogers, commander of U.S. Cyber Command and director
of the National Security Agency.
The challenges are a potential inability to trust financial
and other data due to manipulation by adversaries, and the disregard of some
non-state actors for connectivity and other staples of daily life in many parts
of the world.
Po’oihe 2015 Cyber Security Exercise at the
University of Hawaii
Rogers joined Marcel Lettre, acting undersecretary of defense
for intelligence, and others in a recent panel on cyberwar during the recent
annual Reagan National Defense Forum held in Simi Valley, California.
From a military perspective, Rogers said to the audience of
government and industry leaders, data manipulation through network intrusion is
probably his No. 1 concern.
“As a military commander, I'm used to the idea that I can
walk into a darkened space with a lot of sensors coming together and look at a
visual image that uses color, geography and symbology, and quickly assimilate
what's going on and make very quick tactical decisions,” Rogers said. “But what
happens if what I'm looking at does not reflect reality … [and] leads me to make
decisions that exacerbate the problem I'm trying to deal with [or] make it worse?”
The admiral said he’d just returned from New York, where he
spent a day in related discussions with business leaders and with students at
The digital environment, for the private sector and the
military, is founded on the idea of faith in the data, he said.
“The fundamental premise for most of us is that whatever
we're looking at, we can believe -- whether it's the balance in your personal
account … or the transactions you make in the financial sector,” Rogers said.
What happens, he asked, if that trust is disrupted? What if
the digital underpinning relied upon by people everywhere can no longer be
Vision of the World
His second concern from a military perspective involves
non-state actors. “Nation-states, while they want to gain an advantage,” he said,
“generally have come to the conclusion that if the price of gaining that
advantage is destroying or destabilizing the basic status quo and underpinnings
that we've all come to count on, that's probably not in their best interest.”
With non-state actors like the Islamic State of Iraq and the
Levant or al-Qaida, Rogers added, that premise is gone. They are interested in
destroying the status quo to achieve their vision of the world as it should be,
“So what happens when they suddenly start viewing cyber as a
weapon system, as a capability that helps them achieve that end state -- and one
they can use as a vehicle to achieve destruction and disorder, just as we're
watching them do in the kinetic world?”
In his remarks on the panel, Lettre -- who oversees all DoD
intelligence and security organizations, including the National Security Agency
-- said the cyber threat picture is complex and a function of a geostrategic
landscape that is as challenging as the nation has seen in 50 years.
Defense Secretary Ash Carter and Deputy Defense Secretary Bob
Work “have been pushing for … an innovative approach [and] innovation in
technologies to try to tackle this strategic landscape and deal with these
challenges,” he said.
Commitment to Innovate
One of Carter’s three commitments as secretary, Lettre added,
is to innovate for the Force of the Future so the nation can stay ahead of such
threats it will face five, 10 and 20 years down the road.
As part of the department’s deliberate, strategic approach to
cyber, in April officials updated the DoD Cyber Strategy, focusing on three
missions, Lettre said. These are defending DoD networks, being prepared if the
president calls on the department to help the nation deal with consequential
attacks on the homeland, and making cyber options available to combatant
commanders, he said.
Among other things the strategy prompts a focus on military
application of power through the use of partnerships, the undersecretary added.
“Attacking the cyber-defense challenge really does require
partnerships with industry and partnerships with international allies,” Lettre
The second focus involves building out capability, forces,
options, tools, strategies and doctrine that underlie the ability to defend and
where necessary respond to cyberattacks, he said.
Establishing the now-five-year-old Cyber Command was a big
step forward in building out the needed forces and tools, Lettre said, and by
2018 the sub-command will be fully operational, with 6,200 cyber forces that
will allow the department to defend its networks, defend the nation and support
To support this buildup, in October the General Services
Administration put out a five-year, $460 million multiple-award request for
proposals to outsource Cybercom mission support in areas that include doing the
-- Unify cyberspace resources, create synergy and synchronize
warfighting effects to defend the information-security environment.
-- Centralize command of cyberspace operations to strengthen DoD cyberspace
capabilities and integrate and bolster DoD cyber expertise.
-- Improve DoD capabilities to ensure resilient, reliable information and
communication networks, counter cyberspace threats and assure access to
-- Support the armed services’ ability to confidently conduct high-tempo,
effective operations, and protect command-and-control systems and the cyberspace
infrastructure supporting weapons system platforms from disruptions, intrusions
The goal, according to GSA, is to support Cyber Command and
support services to the mission force, cyber components and Joint Force
headquarters through 10 areas that include cyberspace operations, all-source
intelligence and engagement activities.
To those who wonder why Cybercom would look to the private
sector for this kind of help, Rogers said, “Who develops the kinetic munitions
that we drop? Who builds those [Joint Direct Attack Munitions], those [Tomahawk
Land Attack Missiles]?”
It’s not the Defense Department or the U.S. government, the
Cybercom commander said.
“We turn to the private sector to harness the abilities and
their capabilities to generate the tools DoD needs to execute its broad mission
to defend the nation and protect our interests,” Rogers added.
Cyber should have the same opportunities, the admiral said.
“Not that there aren't aspects that are different,” he added,
“but the fundamentals I think translate well between the two worlds.”
(Follow Cheryl Pellerin on Twitter: @PellerinDoDNews)
Related Links :
Special Report: The DoD Cyber Strategy
Special Report: The Force of the Future