Pentagon Expands Cyber Defense Amid Daily Attacks

Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta warned in a speech at Georgetown University Wednesday that a hostile country could attack America by computer — a 21st century Pearl Harbor.

The Pentagon is planning a major expansion of its cyber security force over the next several years, growing its current forces from 900 to 4,900 troops and civilians. The request is headed by the Defense Department’s Cyber Command and is aimed at bringing the Pentagon into the Internet age and further protecting critical computer systems.

The decision to expand comes shortly after the cyber activist group Anonymous attacked the Department of Justice website and was shortly followed by an alleged attack by Chinese hackers on the New York Times. Pentagon officials said an incident where a virus wiped data from over 30,000 computers at a Saudi Arabian state oil company last summer as a key eye-opener for the Pentagon.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Cyberterrorism Defense Analysis Center (CDAC) said the threat of cyberterrorism to the United States’ technical infrastructure is a real and immediate concern.

The CDAC provides cyberterrorism training to qualifying technical personnel. For those not on the national level, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security offers some tips and advice to help personal computers from cyber attacks.

  • Make use of virus and spyware defense programs, but make sure to limit the number of programs you install and realize that they are not 100 percent effective.
  • Keep your computer and its software up to date. Out of date software is more vulnerable to attack as many of the security components fail to address new viruses.
  • Understand that hackers don’t just go after people with money. One of the most common sites attacked are those which store information about a large quantity of people like Facebook and banking sites.
  • Disconnect your computer from the Internet when you’re not using it. The more you’re online, the more chances a hacker has to break into your computer. When you are connected, make sure you have a firewall enabled.
  • Identity theft is a large concern for many, and rightly so, considering most of our personal information is online somewhere. To help prevent identity theft, you should check the privacy policies of sites asking for information and make sure to do business with reputable, established companies.
  • Overall, be aware of what you’re doing, who you’re giving your information to, and immediately seek assistance if you believe your computer has been compromised.
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