DOD releases 5-point cyber defense plan

The Defense Department's new strategy for defending U.S. computer networks stresses the need for a multi-faceted, evolving approach to counter pervasive threats.

The Defense Department's new strategy for defending computer networks brings government and industry together as partmers, said Deputy Defense Secretary William Lynn in announcing the plan July 14.

Lynn stressed the critical threat the nation faces and the need for a multi-faceted, evolving approach – including key partnerships – to counter the threat.

“The cyber environment we face is dynamic. As such, our strategy must be dynamic as well,” Lynn said. “While today is an important milestone, it is only one part of the department’s first ever Strategy for Operating in Cyberspace.”

As in previous public comments on cyber operations, Lynn stressed the need for strategic partnerships. To support that idea, he revealed the establishment of a public-private pilot program to build up both public and private cyber defense capabilities – and help protect critical infrastructure – by sharing information.

He said the voluntary Defense-Industrial Base (DIB) Cyber Pilot comprises less than two dozen commercial defense companies with which DOD shares classified threat intelligence.

“This program provides these companies with more robust protection for their networks. By furnishing this threat intelligence, we are able to help strengthen these companies’ existing cyber defense,” Lynn said. “By leveraging infrastructure that already exists, the pilot suggests we can provide substantial additional protections across our critical infrastructure for only a fractional increase in costs.”

He said the pilot program has already prevented some intrusions and helped participants better understand various techniques employed by adversaries. An assessment of the program is expected to conclude by the end of the summer, and possible expansion will be considered in the fall, he said.

“The DIB Cyber Pilot breaks new ground in recognizing the interconnectedness of cyber and the important role of stakeholders in thwarting attacks,” Lynn said.

He also highlighted international partnerships, including with Australia, Canada, the United Kingdom and NATO.

The overarching DOD strategy hinges on five strategic pillars, including:

  • The establishment of cyberspace as an operational domain like air, sea, land or space, and organize, train and equip forces accordingly to perform cyber missions.
  • The introduction and employment of new operating concepts on networks, including active defenses using sensors, software and signatures. 
  • Partnership with the private sector and other government agencies, particularly the Homeland Security Department, which is responsible for civilian network protection, to protect critical infrastructure.
  • The build-up of collective cyber defenses in coordination with U.S. allies and international partners.
  • Capitalization of U.S. technological and human resources, including an exceptional cyber workforce and rapid technological innovation.

“Over the past year, we have made progress in each of these pillars,” Lynn said. “Although no network will ever be perfectly secure, our military networks today are better defended, and our cyber hygiene more effective, than before.”

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