The Debate

US Cyber Chief: Military Is Unprepared for Hacking

Recent Features

The Debate

US Cyber Chief: Military Is Unprepared for Hacking

The head of America’s Cyber Command attributes Huawei’s rise to intellectual property theft.

The head of the U.S. Cyber Command said that the U.S. military is unprepared for cyber attacks, specifically singling out China.

"What we're seeing in cyber is going to continue and it's going to grow and it's going to get worse," Gen. Keith Alexander, the Pentagon’s top Cyber chief said at a Washington, DC breakfast this week, InsideDefense reported. He added:

"The platform we have today is not defensible. You can't see it, you can't defend it, and I would guarantee you that the adversary could penetrate it. And it'd take us months to find it."

Elaborating on this point, Gen. Alexander said that the military’s current network has 15,000 enclaves, which made it “obviously indefensible.” To remedy this problem, the general advocated that the military adopt a “thin, virtual client that is defensible, a cloud-like architecture. By doing that it collapses that 15,000 enclaves into a defensible perimeter," according to the InsideDefense report.

He also stressed the importance of working more closely with defense companies that have been the target of cyber espionage operations, particularly from China. In addition, Gen. Alexander emphasized that the military and intelligence agencies didn’t to do a better job of creating a unified set of standards to facilitate information sharing and joint operations between different agencies responsible for cyber defense.

According to the report, Gen. Alexander singled out China as a particularly cyber concern. To bolster his argument that hacking operations could enable China to acquire information and technology must more quickly and cheaply than Western companies, he cited the rapid rise of the Chinese telecommunication company Huawei.

"If you look at Huawei and how they've come up so quickly, did they grow all by themselves or did they steal some of the intellectual property that led to it?"

Gen. Alexander’s speech seemed to contradict a statement the Pentagon had made earlier in the week downplaying the U.S. defense industries’ vulnerability to hackers following reports that major U.S. weapon systems had been compromised by Chinese hackers. In the statement, Pentagon spokesperson George Little said:

“We maintain full confidence in our weapons platforms…. The Department of Defense takes the threat of cyber espionage and cyber security very seriously, which is why we have taken a number of steps to increase funding to strengthen our capabilities, harden our networks, and work with the defense industrial base to achieve greater visibility into the threats our industrial partners are facing. Suggestions that cyber intrusions have somehow led to the erosion of our capabilities or technological edge are incorrect.”