Defense Department Officials Bemoan Increasingly Sophisticated Cyberattacks

May 19, 2021 by Tom Ramstack
Pentagon Press Briefing Room (Photo by Lisa Ferdinando) Office of the Secretary of Defense Public Affair

WASHINGTON — Defense Department officials described a bleak outlook for cybersecurity to a Senate panel Tuesday as a report of another huge Internet scam emerged from a new government report.

However, they also said they are becoming increasingly sophisticated in stopping the scammers.

“Neither the [Defense] Department nor the [defense industrial base] will ever be able to secure industry’s networks and control unclassified information completely but our goal over the short, medium, and long terms is to complicate and frustrate adversary planning and operations so that our adversaries cannot act with impunity or at scale,” Rear Admiral William Chase told the Senate Armed Services subcommittee on cybersecurity.

Chase is the director of the Defense Department’s Protecting Critical Technology Task Force.

He spoke to the Senate subcommittee one day after the Federal Trade Commission reported that nearly 7,000 cryptocurrency purchasers lost more than $80 million to scammers from October through March. The victims were duped into believing they were investing their money through reputable organizations after being contacted through social media.   

Also discussed during the hearing was the 2020 SolarWinds cyberattack, in which Russian government agencies penetrated deep into the computer files of several U.S. agencies and contractors.

Meanwhile, Eastern states continue to recover from the Colonial Pipeline ransomware attack that shut down the largest U.S. pipeline until a $5 million ransom was paid last week to the cybercriminals, believed to be based in Russia. Gas prices shot up in 11 states amid reports of widespread fuel shortages.

President Joe Biden is proposing increasing his 2022 federal budget request for cybersecurity to $2.1 billion with early indications it will win approval in Congress.

Chase acknowledged similar cyberattacks against the Defense Department but gave few details of what kind of information was stolen.  

He said that beginning in 2006, the Defense Department began a large-scale effort to halt computer-based incursions into its network.

Despite initial success, “that threat continued to grow, and, in 2018, the Department of Defense faced a threat to its military advantage by determined adversaries and their intent to steal plans, documentation, designs and intellectual property for key weapon systems,” Chase said in his testimony.

The Defense Department has identified Russia, China, Iran, North Korea and Syria as the adversaries who persistently seek to break into its classified files.

Chase said  the Defense Department computers are generally secure but not the networks of “small- and medium-sized subcontractors, where much of the same valuable data resides.”

Recent Defense Department cybersecurity has focused increasingly on government contractors, he said. 

The efforts use “close coordination, cyber-conscious program management and the establishment of appropriate incentives,” he said.

Jesse Salazar, the Defense Department’s deputy assistant secretary for industrial policy, acknowledged to the Senate that protecting the information of all Defense Department contractors will be “challenging.”

.

“The average American aerospace company today has about 200 tier 1 suppliers,” Salazar said in his testimony. “The second and third tiers of the supply chain may be comprised of more than 12,000 companies, offering numerous pathways for adversaries to access sensitive private and public sector information.”

About 74% of what he called the “defense industrial base” consists of small businesses.

He described a three-party strategy the Defense Department is using to improve contractors’ cybersecurity.

It includes new contract language requiring the companies to meet Defense Department standards, external reviews of compliance with the standards and providing contractors with the resources and training they need for their cybersecurity obligations.

He would not give the Senate guarantees of success, only a summary of the challenge facing the Defense Department.

“Increasingly sophisticated, well-resourced, and pervasive cyberattacks, including state-sponsored espionage, are threatening the United States and the rules-based order on which the global economy relies,” Salazar said.

In The News

Health

Voting

Cybersecurity

Ransomware Gangs Get Paid Off as Officials Struggle for Fix
Cybercrime
Ransomware Gangs Get Paid Off as Officials Struggle for Fix

BOSTON (AP) — If your business falls victim to ransomware and you want simple advice on whether to pay the criminals, don't expect much help from the U.S. government. The answer is apt to be: It depends. "It is the position of the U.S. government that... Read More

Senators Try to Get Tough On Rise in Cybercrime
Cybersecurity
Senators Try to Get Tough On Rise in Cybercrime
June 17, 2021
by Tom Ramstack

WASHINGTON -- A group of U.S. senators responded Thursday to recent ransomware attacks by introducing legislation to impose new tactics and harsh penalties on cyberattackers. They pinned much of the blame on Russia, despite denials a day earlier by Russian President Vladimir Putin. “The Russians do... Read More

Warner Contemplates Mandatory Cyberattack Reporting Bill
Cybersecurity
Warner Contemplates Mandatory Cyberattack Reporting Bill
June 16, 2021
by Kate Michael

WASHINGTON — The rise in profit-driven cyberattacks has prompted Senate Select Committee on Intelligence Chairman Mark Warner, D-Va., to contemplate a mandatory reporting bill so law enforcement can promptly take action on urgent threats. Warner told Axios recently that he anticipates broad support for such upcoming... Read More

White House, Congress Aligned on Cybersecurity Goals
Cybersecurity
White House, Congress Aligned on Cybersecurity Goals
June 16, 2021
by Victoria Turner

WASHINGTON - As Congress edges closer to putting a final infrastructure bill on President Joe Biden’s desk, it looks like lawmakers and the White House are aligned in their commitment to bolster U.S. cybersecurity through increased federal investment, focusing on prevention and utilizing public-private partnerships to... Read More

Kakto Presses Administration to Take Cybersecurity More Seriously
Think Tanks
Kakto Presses Administration to Take Cybersecurity More Seriously
June 11, 2021
by Victoria Turner

Rep. John Katko, R-N.Y. recently went into a couple of Lincoln car dealerships in Syracuse, New York, but “neither one of them had any cars.”  “And they’re not going to have any cars for several weeks because of the chip shortage,” Katko said during a "fireside... Read More

Federal Government Prepares to Take Lead in Protecting Industry Computer Networks
Cybersecurity
Federal Government Prepares to Take Lead in Protecting Industry Computer Networks
June 10, 2021
by Tom Ramstack

WASHINGTON -- Testimony at a congressional hearing Wednesday on last month’s Colonial Pipeline Co. ransomware attack demonstrated that a bigger role for the federal government is coming soon to protect private computer networks. The Georgia-based company’s chief executive officer admitted to internal failures in protecting the... Read More

News From The Well
scroll top