DOD database to battle cybercrime

The Defense Department is on the verge of completing a common database to

aid the defense and intelligence communities in battling cybercrime, said

the new commander of the Pentagon's Joint Task Force for Computer Network

Defense.

The database will enable those involved in Computer Emergency Response

Teams (CERTs) across DOD, intelligence agencies and the FBI to share information

critical to protecting their networks against intruders.

The database is in the final stages of development and likely will be

operational in early 2001, said Maj. Gen. James Bryan, who commands the

JTF-CND.

"Having the ability to create a common database and to share that database

allows us to take advantage of modern Web techniques in regard to management,

reporting and alerting," said Bryan, who also is the vice director of the

Defense Information Systems Agency.

One of the main benefits of a shared database, according to Bryan, is

that it will enable the department to detect patterns of activity, enabling

"us to do a much better job of understanding and describing what's going

on and taking the proper actions to counter it.

"Also, I think a shared database allows people to do what humans do

best, and that is to share ideas," he said. "The really qualified people

in this computer network warfare business are a fairly small community of

experts, and this database will provide them [with] a forum and opportunity

not only to share data but to share ideas as well."

One network security professional said it is a good idea for the military

CERTs to share information about military-specific vulnerabilities and

solutions. But he also noted that network vulnerability information is available

from numerous sources, most of which simply repeat the same information.

"We have created this whole massive CERT information-sharing thing with

greater and longer tentacles, but simply sharing information is not the

last, ultimate solution," said Fred Villella, president of New Dimensions

International, a network security firm.

The database is only one of several initiatives the task force is undertaking

to build its arsenal of cyberwarfare weaponry. Other efforts include developing

automated technologies for monitoring the network, reporting intrusions

and improving response time.

"We've got to develop more real-time intrusion detection and ways of

reporting without becoming intrusive ourselves," Bryan said. "We're developing

technology that will allow us to automatically sense whether our firewalls

have the right configuration within them or whether the antivirus updates

are in fact up-to-date."

The JTF-CND was formed in 1998. Although it is housed within DISA, the

task force falls under the authority of U.S. Space Command, which officially

took on responsibility for computer network attacks in October.

Although some have criticized the Pentagon for placing the JTF-CND within

DISA, Bryan said the connection is critical.

"In some ways, the organization marriage that was achieved by establishing

the vice director of DISA as the command of JTF-CND was a master stroke.

I could not do my job as the commander of the joint task force without the

support of DISA," he said.

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