Pentagon to boost Cyber Command fivefold, report says

Faced with rising cyberattack numbers and heckling by the likes of Anonymous, the Pentagon has decided to increase its staffing from 900 to 4,900 workers, according to the Washington Post.

Charlie Osborne
Charlie Osborne Contributing Writer
Charlie Osborne is a cybersecurity journalist and photographer who writes for ZDNet and CNET from London. PGP Key: AF40821B.
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U.S. Cyber Command
U.S. Defense Department photo by Cherie Cullen

Cyberattacks and data breaches are becoming a common occurrence worldwide.

When it takes little more than a script kiddie or a downloadable toolkit to cause havoc in corporate systems -- or even transform a governmental Web site into a game of Asteroids as part of a protest, governments are in serious trouble unless they begin to invest more in the future of their digital defense.

When Anonymous recently took down the U.S. Sentencing Commission's Web site through code distributed by the hacktivist collective for "Operation Last Resort," ussc.gov was transformed much to the amusement of many -- but it underscored a serious problem.

If, with collective ease, political hackers can take down a Web site by not just instigating a denial-of-service attack (DoS) but mocking a government through creating a shooting game and distributing files, what will the next level be?

This outcome is something governments not only have to avoid, but be prepared for. The Pentagon currently only has 900 members within its cybersecurity force, but that is about to change.

According to the Washington Post, although the move is yet to be formally announced, the U.S. government will be increasing this number to 4,900 within several years.

Said to be at the request of Gen. Keith B. Alexander, the Defense Department's head of Cyber Command, more staff will be assigned positions in the new-and-improved cybersecurity force to try to counter not only homegrown attacks against governmental systems, but also to "conduct offensive operations against foreign foes," according to an unnamed U.S. defense official.

No "formal decisions" have been made concerning the intended structure of the Pentagon's new cybersecurity force, and details are still being worked out, but the intended expansion would include higher levels of both military and civilian staff. This, in turn, would place the force on a similar level to other defense departments.

The anonymous official told Reuters that the Pentagon was working closely with U.S. Cyber Command to create the "optimum force structure for successfully operating in cyberspace."

Recently, a new cyberattack campaign was discovered by Kaspersky Labs. Dubbed "Red October" and on par with data-vacuuming malware Flame, the threat has been targeting governmental bodies, siphoning data and intelligence from mobile devices, computer systems and networking equipment.

This story originally appeared at ZDNet's Between the Lines under the headline "Pentagon to boost cybersecurity force numbers: report."