Pentagon Concerned About Terrorists' Cyberwar Capabilities

The Pentagon and foreign partners will follow the Cold War construct of "shared warning" to pursue enemies in cyberspace, Deputy Defense Secretary William J. Lynn III said on Thursday at the International Workshop on Global Security in Paris.

Neither America nor its international partners have faced a true cyber attack from a nation state -- the kind that generates severe economic or physical damage -- but, the "more immediate concern" is the threat of a terrorist group developing destructive cyber tools or buying them off the black market, he said.

"Just as our air and space defenses are linked with those of our allies to provide warning of airborne and missile attacks, so too can we cooperatively monitor our computer networks for cyber intrusions," Lynn said. Defense is finalizing a strategy that will direct each service on how to train, equip and command its forces for cyber missions, he said.

A consensus on cyber response is emerging at the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, Lynn added.

"NATO is unanimous in acknowledging the need to elevate its treatment of network security," he said. "A commitment to take NATO's Cyber Incident Response Center to full operating capability by 2012 is a significant step in the right direction. And at last week's ministerial, NATO ministers approved final cyber policy guidance."

Lynn stressed that public-private partnerships must also be part of military cyber missions, since 90 percent of U.S. Defense communications travel over the same commercial networks that service civilians.

Critical infrastructure networks -- the systems supporting the transportation, energy and financial sectors -- must be protected by defense and non-defense agencies, he said. "Protecting the networks that undergird critical infrastructure must be part of our national security and homeland defense missions," Lynn said.

As a start, the Pentagon is sharing classified intelligence on cyber threats with military contractors and their internet service providers to help defense companies bolster their computer systems, he added.