DoD: Cyber Weapons May Be Better Than Cyber Espionage Tools

The Pentagon is shifting gears on cyber strategy to research technologies capable of shortcircuiting enemy systems and tailored to nation state adversaries, Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency and National Security Agency officials told lawmakers on Tuesday afternoon.

"The DoD is capability-limited in cyber, both defensively and offensively. We need to change that," said DARPA Acting Director Kaigham J. Gabriel, at a Senate Armed Services Emerging Threats and Capabilities subcommittee hearing.

"A cyber exploit that always causes the target system to crash is not much of an intelligence exploit but it may be exactly the effect that a DoD mission calls for," he said. Gabriel added that the agency's expanded work on cyber weaponry -- a gameplan detailed by the Washington Post yesterday -- isn't new, but builds on an existing foundation. Gabriel took over DARPA operations when former director Regina Dugan departed for a position at Google earlier this month.

The Defense Department's $3.4 billion 2013 budget request for cybersecurity includes $486 million for science and technology activities at agencies like DARPA and NSA, according to the Pentagon. That research allocation would go toward long-term experimentation and immediate network deployments.

Right now, Congress typically only provides money to test technology for up to a year, complained Michael A. Wertheimer, NSA director for research and development. "I rarely get the opportunity to think three years down the line in research," he said. Wertheimer kept mum on those research goals, telling lawmakers he would go into specifics at a closed session later in the day.

"We are not keeping enough of a strategic eye on that nation state threat -- that division 1" he added, in a tribute to the March Madness college basketball tournament.