US Air Force to enter cyberspace

The US Air Force is to create a unit dedicated to both offensive and defensive cyberspace operations, reports Computing.

The Afcyber command centre, due to be fully operational by the end of 2008, will be run by a 30,000 strong workforce, says the US Air Force. It will be headed by former Pentagon CIO Major General William Lord.

The unit’s activities will primarily involve assessing the vulnerability of US defence IT systems to electronic attacks and improving their resilience. The unit will also co-ordinate with physical armed forces in order to target and attack those enemies with a hostile presence in cyberspace, according to Computing.

Afcyber will also provide $10 million of annual funding for a major research centre dedicated to understanding software application vulnerabilities.

The news follows a catalogue of probes and intrusions into US military and government networks, the majority of which have been traced back to the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) – the extremely cyber-active Chinese military.

In late August 2007 it emerged that the Chinese military successfully penetrated Pentagon networks in June 2007, prompting President Bush to admit that “a lot” of US systems were “vulnerable” to attack.

The startling scale and ambition of the Chinese military’s cyber strategy was unveiled in September, when the Times newspaper obtained a Pentagon report outlining China’s alleged ‘blueprint’ for cyberwar

Forming part of an “aggressive push” by Beijing to achieve electronic supremacy over its Western economic rivals by 2050, the blueprint extends well beyond the confines of military networks and includes provisions for disabling an enemy’s financial and communications capabilities during an international conflict.

The Times' revelation followed a series of incidents in which the Chinese government has been accused of sponsoring military-led cyber assaults against European government networks’ computer systems, including those of the German Chancellery and of Whitehall in Britain.

Further reading

McAfee: Cyber-espionage major threat to national security

Pete Swabey

Pete Swabey

Pete was Editor of Information Age and head of technology research for Vitesse Media plc from 2005 to 2013, before moving on to be Senior Editor and then Editorial Director at The Economist Intelligence...

Related Topics