An Anatomy of US Cyber Command

United States Cyber Command (USCYBERCOM) is America’s answer to cyber warfare, but who are they and what groups make this elite team up?

Mission Statement

USCYBERCOM plans, coordinates, integrates, synchronizes and conducts activities to: direct the operations and defense of specified Department of Defense information networks and; prepare to, and when directed, conduct full spectrum military cyberspace operations in order to enable actions in all domains, ensure US/Allied freedom of action in cyberspace and deny the same to our adversaries.” – 9ec4c12949a4f31474f299058ce2b22a

The Backbone

When you think of USCYBERCOM, the Air Force comes to mind immediately. Since the beginning, the Air Force has been a driving force behind US Cyber War. But there is another group that is more responsible for the creation of USCYBERCOM and actually forms the Command’s backbone. According to Richard A. Clarke’s book “Cyber War: The Next Threat to National Security and What to Do About It”, this shadowy group had already fully infiltrated foreign Internet infrastructure before the command even existed.

We will take a quick look at the military groups involved in USCYBERCOM and finally learn about the shadow group behind it all.

The Units

Cyber Command is a part of the US Strategic Command and each of the four major military branches are represented and are led by General Keith B. Alexander. The units consist of:

Air Force Cyber Command

The 24th Air Force consists of the 67th Network Warfare Wing, the 688th Information Operations Wing, and the 689th Combat Communications Wing. The 67th is of most interest here. They are the wing responsible for network defense, attack and exploitation.

Navy Fleet Cyber Command

The “Phantom” Fleet, or 10th Fleet coordinated and supervised all Navy Anti-Submarine Warfare in WWII. Originally the unit consisted of no ships, never put to sea, and had about 50 intelligence operators. The fleet was disbanded after WWII but was re-activated in January of 2010 as the U.S. Fleet Cyber Command/U.S. Tenth Fleet.

Their mission is to “execute the full spectrum of cyber, electronic warfare, information operations and signal intelligence capabilities and missions across the cyber, electromagnetic and space domains.” Navy Cyber Command is led by Vice Admiral Michael Rogers. I had the absolute honor of meeting Vice Adm. Rogers at a recent military event and he is an exceptional person.

Marine Corps Cyber Command

Marine Forces Cyber Command (MARFORCYBER) originally consisted of about 800 personnel tasked with the job of protecting Marine Corps cyber space.

Army Cyber Command

The new guys on the block, Army Cyber Command, Second Army was activated in 2010, and has over 20,000 personnel tasked with defending Army systems from cyber-attack. Army Cyber Command consists of the 9th signal command, 1st Information Operations Command, and the U.S. Intelligence and Security Command.

NSA

The “Backbone” of Cyber Command. The NSA is the shadowy cryptologic intelligence organization that could just be the driving force or more accurately stated, the reason, for the creation of US Cyber Command. It all began with the “Title 50 verses Title 10” battle. The NSA already had strong communications surveillance & cyber capabilities and many thought that they should be US Cyber Command. But according to Richard Clarke’s book, some in the military brought up the fact that the NSA is technically a civilian organization and could not legally fight wars. Under Title 10, the NSA is restricted to gathering information only and cannot participate in battle.

Thus instead of re-creating the wheel, the Director of the NSA became a four star general, and continued to lead the NSA but also became the commander of the newly formed US Cyber Command.

The NSA just built a $286 million dollar complex in Georgia, and is building a $2 Billion facility in Utah. The facility should be completed in 2013 and according to Wired.com, it will be used to collect and analyze international electronic traffic:

Flowing through its servers and routers and stored in near-bottomless databases will be all forms of communication, including the complete contents of private emails, cell phone calls, and Google searches, as well as all sorts of personal data trails—parking receipts, travel itineraries, bookstore purchases, and other digital “pocket litter.”

Conclusion

Paring one of the nation’s foremost intelligence gathering & analysis organizations with very capable military units and placing them under the same commander has made US Cyber Command one of the most power cyber forces on Earth. Now if we can just unravel the legalese that has handcuffed them and keep them focused on terrorists and foreign threats, we will be all set.

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All the Lights will not go out in a Cyber Attack

Doing some research for an upcoming magazine article on cyber warfare, something dawned on me. One of the biggest threats that you hear is that hackers could take out the power grid and all the power would be shut off. America would be thrown back to the power stone age in the flick of a switch (or a series of SCADA exploits).

But is this true?

The answer is no.

Even if hackers (hacktivists or foreign Nation States) did infiltrate every power plant and somehow successfully shut down the entire power grid, many buildings and organizations would not be affected. Key government, military and even some commercial buildings would be unaffected. At most what they would experience would be a very brief power outage, and then the power would be right back on.

You see, as several utility companies seemed to have ignored the warnings of cyber attack, others have not. When I worked in the energy sector several years ago, the move was already on to provide alternative power to key US organizations. Even communication backup systems were created so that federal, state and local government agencies would be able to communicate in the event of a blackout.

These power systems are completely offline, impervious to electronic attack and can run for an extended amount of time. So even if “Cybergeddon” does occur, our nation will not be completely “in the dark”.

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IP Address Leads Police to Shootout with French Terrorist

(Photo: AFP/GETTY)

Elite French special operation RAID Police took down the radical Muslim terrorist Mohamed Merah on Thursday. Like the scene out of a Hollywood movie, Merah wearing a black robe and a bullet proof vest, actually counterattacked the police assault to end the 32 hour siege at his house.

It’s the first time in my life I’ve seen someone, as we launch an assault, launch an assault against us“, said Amaury de Hauteclocque the leader of the RAID police force.

Merah, a self proclaimed Al-Qaeda terrorist died in the shoot out with police after going on a killing spree that included three french soldiers, and four people at a Jewish school in Toulouse, including a 7 year old girl. He was tracked down, believe it or not, by his IP address.

According to Reuters, Merah contacted one of his first victims, a French soldier, on the pretext of buying his scooter. From this communication, investigators were able to match Merah to his IP address. He was already under surveillance due to suspicious behavior that included trips to Afghanistan and Pakistan. On one trip he was arrested by Afghan police and detained by US Forces. He was placed on the United State’s No Fly List.

The IP address and other tips led police to raid Merah’s house.