Expert: Pentagon Cybersecurity Changes “very basic, very late”

CNN reports, in an article by Ashley Fantz dated December 2, 2010, that following the summer release of thousands of pages of classified U.S. intelligence by the website WikiLeaks.org, the Pentagon responded with a pledge to "fix loopholes in its computer systems."  Several months later, progress is "'ridiculous.'"  

According to Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman, only "[s]ixty percent of the Defense Department's computer system is now equipped with software capable of 'monitoring unusual data access or usage.'"  Whitman gave that statement via email only "hours before WikiLeaks published diplomatic cables that revealed a spiderweb of secrets covering nearly every crisis, controversy and diplomatic headache involving the U.S."

"'Only [sixty] percent?  That's ridiculous.  You would never hear a corporation saying they have anything less than 90 percent cyber security'" says Hemu Nigam, an expert in computer security with two decades in the field and experience working with the U.S. Secret Service, the FBI and Interpol.  Nigam currently runs SSP Blue, "an advisory firm that tells major corporations how to protect against hackers and insiders looking to leak."

With regard to what measures the Pentagon has taken, Nigam says "[i]t's all very basic, and very late."

Among the procedures currently underway to secure the Pentagon's computer networks are "'disabling all write capability to removable media on DoD classified computers, as a temporary technical solution to mitigate the future risks of personnel moving classified data to unclassified systems.'" In response, Nigam said "[t]his is an easy fix to make — I don't know of any businesses that don't have this kind of wall up to protect sensitive internal information.'"

Speaking on what steps he would recommend, Nigam advise was straightforward.  "'[A]n assessment of how someone penetrated the system, from where, what was taken and who else is still possibly inside doing damage'" would be the starting point.  Additionally, Nigam stated that the "military would be wise to hire more white-hat hackers, if it is having difficulty securing computer networks, or reach out to the private sector."  Interestingly, there is some indication that the military may already be exploring this possibility.  According to PC World, the military "[has] tried to recruit at major hacking conventions."  (FYI: A "white-hat hacker" is someone who is hired to hack in order to expose vulnerabilities).

According to CNN, the Pentagon has known of the threat posed by WikiLeaks for years.  "In 2008, the U.S. Army Counterintelligence Center and the Department of Defense wrote a . . . threat assessment report about WikiLeaks."  Although that report was classified, WikiLeaks obtained a copy and published it in the spring of this year.  

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As you may or may not know, even if a classified document has been disclosed, it retains its classification.  Only when officially declassified is a sensitive document available for public release. So I'm not sure if the Counterintelligence Center's report on WikiLeaks has been declassified, but CNN did try to provide a link to the report, and as of this entry that link was not working.

 

The full article can be found above, or here

 

 

 

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Authors

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Professor William Snyder

Professor William C. Snyderis a member of the faculty of the Institute for National Security and Counter-terrorism at Syracuse University after fifteen years with the United States Department of Justice.

Ryan D. White

Ryan D. WhiteRyan is currently a third year law student at Syracuse University College of Law, and is also pursuing a Master of Public Administration degree from Syracuse’s Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs. Ryan spent time with Homeland Security Investigations while pursuing his undergraduate degree at Wesleyan University, and spent his first summer of law school as clerk for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Western District of New York. He is a member of Syracuse Law Review, the Journal on Terrorism and Security Analysis, and participates in the Veteran’s Legal Clinic. Full biography

Shelby E. Mann

Ryan D. WhiteShelby is a second year law student at the Syracuse University College of Law. During her final year at the University of Missouri, she served as a full-time news producer for ABC 17 News. Shelby spent her first summer of law school at the Shelby County District Attorney General's Office in Memphis, Tenn., in the Public Corruption and Economic Crimes Unit. She is a member of Syracuse Law Review, the Journal on Terrorism and Security Analysis, and the senior editor for the Syrian Accountability Project. Full biography

Christopher w. FolkChristopher W. Folk

is a 2017 graduate of SU College of Law. A non-traditional student, Christopher returned to academia after spending nearly twenty years in the high tech industry. Christopher served in the Marine Corps, graduated from Cornell University with a B.S. In Applied Economics and Business Management, attended Northeastern University’s High-Tech MBA Program and received a M.S. In Computer Information Systems. Christopher previously worked in Software Engineering. Christopher is currently serving his second term as Town Justice for the Town of Waterloo. Christopher externed with a Cybersecurity firm in the Washington, D.C. area between his first and second year at SU College of Law. Full biography

Anna Maria Castillo

is 2016 graduate of Syracuse College of Law. She also holds a Master of Arts in International Relations from Syracuse University's Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs. She has interned at a London-based think-tank that specializes in transnational terrorism and global security and at the legal department of a defense contractor. She served as an executive editor in the Syracuse Law Review. Full biography

Jennifer A. CamilloJennifer A. Camillo

is a 2015 graduate of Syracuse College of Law and is a prosecutor. She has served as a law clerk in the United States Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of New York and the Cayuga County District Attorney’s Office and as an extern in the Oneida County District Attorney’s Office. She was a member of the Syracuse National Trial Team and was awarded the Tiffany Cup by the New York Bar Association for her trial advocacy achievements.

Tara J. PistoreseTara J. Pistorese

holds Juris Doctor and Masters of Public Administration degrees from Syracuse University's Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs and its College of Law. She wrote for this blog when a student. She is now a member of the U.S. Army Judge Advocate General's Corps.

Benjamin Zaiser

is both a scholar and a Federal Agent of the Federal Criminal Police Office of Germany. (Opinions expressed here are his own and not any part of official duty.) Full biography

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