US CYBERCOM CHIEF DETAILS U.S. CYBER THREATS, TRENDS
By Cheryl Pellerin
21 Nov 14. Cyber threats are real, hurting the nation and its allies and partners, costing hundreds of billions, and potentially leading to a catastrophic failure if not addressed, Navy Adm. Michael S. Rogers told a House panel yesterday.
U.S. sailors assigned to Navy Cyber Defense Operations Command take their stations at Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek-Fort Story, Va., Aug. 4, 2010. NCDOC sailors monitor, analyze, detect and respond to unauthorized activity within U.S. Navy information systems and computer networks. The Navy and the other service branches are contributing service members to the U.S. Cyber Command workforce.
Rogers, the commander of U.S. Cyber Command, director of the National Security Agency and chief of the Central Security Service, testified before members of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence on advanced cybersecurity threats facing the United States.
Cyber Challenges ‘Not Theoretical’
“There should be [no] doubt in anybody’s mind that the cyber challenges we’re talking about are not theoretical. This is something real that is impacting our nation and those of our allies and friends every day,” Rogers said.
Such incidents are costing hundreds of billions of dollars, leading to a reduced sense of security and potentially to “some truly significant, almost catastrophic failures if we don’t take action,” the admiral added.
In recent weeks, cyber-related incidents have struck the White House, the State Department, the U.S. Postal Service and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
The Defense Department, the U.S. Sentencing Commission and the U.S. Treasury also have had cyber intrusions.
Sophisticated malware has been found on industrial control systems used to operate U.S. critical infrastructure, and other major intrusions have been reported by J.P. Morgan Chase, Target, Neiman Marcus, Michaels, Yahoo! Mail, AT&T, Google, Apple and many more companies.
Intrusions Seek to Acquire Capability
“We have … observed intrusions into industrial control systems,” Rogers said. “What concerns us is that … capability can be used by nation-states, groups or individuals to take down” the capability of the control systems.
And “we clearly are seeing instances where nation-states, groups and individuals are aggressively looking to acquire that capability,” he added.
Rogers said his team thinks they’re seeing reconnaissance by many actors to ensure they understand U.S. systems in advance of exploiting vulnerabilities in the control systems.
“We see them attempting to steal information on how our systems are configured, the specific schematics of most of our control systems down to the engineering level of detail so they [see] … the vulnerabilities, how they are constructed [and] how [to] get in and defeat them,” the admiral said.
“Those control systems are fundamental to how we work most of our infrastructure across this nation,” Rogers added, “and it’s not just the United States — it’s on a global basis.”
Growth Areas of Vulnerability
When he’s asked about coming trends, Rogers said, industry control systems and supervisory control and data acquisition systems, called SCADA systems, come to mind as “big growth areas of vulnerability and action that we’re going to see in the coming 12 months.”
“It’s among the things that concern me the most,” he added, “because this will be truly destructive if someone decides that’s what they want to do.”
What it means, he said, is that malware is on some of those systems and attackers may already have the capability to flip a switch and disrupt the activity the switch controls.
“Once you’re into the system … it enables you to do things like, if I want to tell power turbines to go offline and stop generating power, you can do that,” he explained. “If I want to segment the transmission system so you couldn