Effective cyber defense requires new processes

Traditional defense models may not hold up in cyberspace

In the newly established and vaguely defined cyber domain, the U.S. military will need to leave behind some of its most deeply ingrained tenets and focus on a new reality of warfare that is fast-paced, rapidly evolving and radically different than traditional, physical warfare, according to defense officials.

“Our adversary is a learning, adaptive force…and they will continue to target our vulnerabilities,” said Mark Bacharach, technical director at the Marine Corps Cyberspace Command, who spoke June 28 at the IDGA Cyber Warfare and Security Summit in Washington. “This adversary will adapt faster than us if we don’t change our processes.”

Letting go of the traditional model of domain dominance will likely be part of the equation because of the borderless, undefined nature of cyberspace.

“This is a complex environment…we have never seen an operational environment like this,” Bacharach said.

Col. Jeffrey Schilling, chief of current operations at Army Cyber Command, pointed out that cyberspace is unique in that it’s a virtual environment with no dimensions, man-made and for the most part neither owned nor operated by the government. He said cyber attributes must become better identified and characterized.

“Everyone struggles with defining a cyber attack…we need definitions,” Schilling said.

According to Bacharach, there is a question of how to do command and control of the force amid rapidly changing dynamics, taking into account the volume of information and its impact, and the new weapons that come along with the new domain.

“Protracted conflict and proliferation make the old ways of planning ineffective,” Bacharach said. He also noted that high-tech training of Marine forces can also be a challenge.

“Adversaries’ cyber capabilities and capacity will continue to grow exponentially in frequency, complexity and severity…the current operational and service demands exceed on-hand and projected [Marine Corps Cyberspace Command] and associated capabilities,” he said.

It’s a challenge the Marine Corps, and the other cyber service components, are taking on at full speed as cyber operations are already under way.

“There’s no dwell time in cyberspace,” Bacharach said.

About the Author

Amber Corrin is a staff writer covering military networks for Defense Systems.

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