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Report: Flimsy cybersecurity for US military is 'magnet to US opponents'

A Pentagon study of cybervulnerabilities found that during war-game exercises, some adversaries were able to hack into US military networks with 'relative ease.' The study urges refocused intelligence work and improved cyberdefense.

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This file photo shows a reflection of the Department of Homeland Security logo in the eyeglasses of a cybersecurity analyst at the watch and warning center of the Department of Homeland Security's cyber defense facility in Idaho Falls, Idaho.

AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill, File

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The US military “cannot be confident” that its computer networks will continue to work in the event of a cyberattack from a reasonably competent enemy.

What’s more, the US military’s “dependence” on flimsy security systems “is a magnet to US opponents,” who are increasingly capable of attacking “with potential consequences similar in some ways to the nuclear threat of the Cold War.”

That’s the warning out of a new 18-month study from the Pentagon’s Defense Science Board, which formed a task force to review the vulnerability of US military networks.

The task force found that during war-game exercises, “red team” adversaries were able to hack into US military networks with “relative ease.”

Such adversaries could “completely [beat] our forces in exercises” using hacking programs widely available on the Internet, according to the study. This happened in large part, the study concluded, because the Defense Department’s networks “are built on inherently insecure architectures that are composed of, and increasingly using, foreign parts.”

As a result, the DOD and the contractors it employs “have already sustained staggering losses” – in the form of “decades of combat knowledge and experience that provide adversaries insight” into US military operations.

So what to do about the threat, which Pentagon officials liken to the countering of German U-boats during World War II and nuclear deterrence during the cold war?

It is going to take a combination of refocused intelligence work and improved cyberdefense, according to the report.

Getting better at cyberdefense will involve giving up on the thought of protecting all military networks from advanced hackers, “which the task force believes is neither feasible nor affordable.”

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