Cyber Expert Discusses U.S. Vulnerabilities at Naval Academy

Cyber Expert Discusses U.S. Vulnerabilities at Naval Academy

A cyber expert addressed the Naval Academy Feb. 19 to address how computers are playing a major role in nearly every aspect of our lives.

On the battlefield they control targeting systems, relay critical intelligence information and manage logistics.

At home, they control infrastructure, financial systems and critical elements of the economy. According to cyber expert Richard Clark, who spoke at the Naval Academy Feb. 19, they’re all susceptible to attack with disastrous results to U.S. national security.

Clarke warned against the U.S. falling behind in creating the policies required to defend against cyber attacks due to fear of government regulation. Although the U.S. pioneered the technology behind cyber warfare, outdated policies and strategies make the country vulnerable to losing a cyber war to a hostile nation such as China or Russia, said Clarke.

“We are losing the economic competition because American companies cannot successfully protect their networks against the Chinese People’s Liberation Army,” said Clarke. “The big companies that really should know this stuff – the ones that are spending millions of dollars defending their networks such as Google, Sony, City Bank, Bank of America – they all have been successfully penetrated.”

Clark cited reports that the Chinese People’s Liberation Army’s “Unit 61398” has been engaged in a massive attack on the U.S. for the last three years. Also known as Advanced Persistence Threat Group 1, they have been hacking into nearly every corporation, research lab, university and government agency in the U.S. Other units have been doing the same thing in Europe and Asia.

“They took the equivalent of four Libraries of Congress last year and made copies of that information,” said Clarke. “We are now engaged in a global economic war, a competition that creates jobs if we win and unemployment and debt if we lose.”

Clarke also emphasized the importance of cyber security for the military.

“Everything that we do as a nation, in our civilian economy and everything we do as a military is dependent upon cyber systems. If they don’t work, nothing works,” said Clarke

Naval Academy Superintendent Vice Adm. Michael Miller understands the changing 21st Century battlefield and has already put USNA at the forefront of a cutting-edge cyber curriculum.

“The Naval Academy emphasizes cyber studies to best prepare the next generation of leaders to serve in this rapidly developing environment. To win on the cyber battlefield, Midshipmen must understand how complex and intricate computer systems fit together, the strengths and vulnerabilities of networks, and how best to leverage new technology,” he said.

The military’s increased emphasis on operating effectively in a cyber/information warfare environment has prompted the Naval Academy to undertake several efforts to provide Midshipmen with cyber warfare skills and knowledge.

The Naval Academy’s new Center for Cyber Security Studies serves to enhance awareness and the educational opportunities available to Midshipmen, faculty and staff in the areas of cyber security and cyber warfare. Various cyber security topics have been added to first-year student professional training, and a Fundamentals of Cyber Security course is now taken by all freshmen. A follow-on, more advanced course for all juniors will be offered to the Brigade in 2013.

Two new advanced cyber security elective courses, Cryptography and Network Security and Computer Forensics, have been added to the computer science curriculum and Midshipmen internships have been established with National Security Agency and National Defense University. In addition, the Naval Academy recently unveiled a design for a 250,000 square foot cyber center, to include facilities for a cyber-operations major for future classes.

Richard A. Clarke is an internationally-recognized expert on security, including homeland security, national security, cyber security, and counterterrorism. He is currently an on-air consultant for ABC News and teaches at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government.

Clarke served the last three presidents as a senior White House advisor. Over the course of an unprecedented 11 consecutive years of White House service, he held the titles of special assistant to the president for global affairs, national coordinator for security and counterterrorism, and special advisor to the president for cyber security.

Naval Today Staff, February 25, 2013; Image: US Navy