Lord: Cyberwarfare means new rules of engagement

The Defense Department needs new rules of engagement by which commanders can quickly determine the appropriate response to cyberattacks against U.S. military and civilian targets, said the incoming commander of the provisional Air Force Cyber Command, Air Force Maj. Gen. William Lord.

In an Oct. 9 interview, Lord said the speed at which cyberattacks typically unfold leaves little time for lengthy discussions about how — and if — the United States should retaliate when attacked. “In cyberwarfare, literally, within minutes you can see networks being crumbled.”

Particularly when cyberattacks target U.S. civilian networks, new processes are needed to quickly determine the nature and extent of the incident, Lord said. “It takes us a while to say, ‘Gee, are we at war? Is this just a mechanical failure? Is this an act of terrorism? Is this just a trial balloon by some brilliant 12-year-old in another nation?' " he said.

Meanwhile, the Air Force is still years away from considering a cyberattack weapon that would wreak the kind of havoc on an adversary’s networks that a nuclear bomb would on populations, Lord said. “I don’t think there is [such a weapon] yet.”

For now, Lord said, he is more concerned with beefing up the Air Force's network defenses for an era in which large-scale and potentially crippling cyberattacks might become commonplace. “While we have to be as good as we can get when we hand out this punch, we need to be able to absorb the punch,” he said.

Lord is slated to take the helm of the provisional Air Force Cyber Command at Barksdale Air Force Base in Shreveport, La., later this month.

Featured

  • Cybersecurity

    DHS floats 'collective defense' model for cybersecurity

    Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen wants her department to have a more direct role in defending the private sector and critical infrastructure entities from cyberthreats.

  • Defense
    Defense Secretary James Mattis testifies at an April 12 hearing of the House Armed Services Committee.

    Mattis: Cloud deal not tailored for Amazon

    On Capitol Hill, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis sought to quell "rumors" that the Pentagon's planned single-award cloud acquisition was designed with Amazon Web Services in mind.

  • Census
    shutterstock image

    2020 Census to include citizenship question

    The Department of Commerce is breaking with recent practice and restoring a question about respondent citizenship last used in 1950, despite being urged not to by former Census directors and outside experts.

Stay Connected

FCW Update

Sign up for our newsletter.

I agree to this site's Privacy Policy.