If you’re old enough to remember the global arms race, you’ll probably recall how it ended. As the Soviet Union and the United States sought to outnumber one another in weaponry, the nation that spent the most – the United States – claimed victory simply by bankrupting the opponent.
Now, it appears, we’re on another arms race. This time, however, it’s in cyberspace. Last week, the President Obama proposed increased spending to protect U.S. computer networks from Internet-based attacks. It’s a sign that the White House is taking cyber threats more seriously than ever.
It’s hard not to take cyber-threats seriously, since they seem to increase with each month that passes. U.S. intelligence officials said last month that cyber attacks and cyber espionage have replaced terrorism as the top security threat facing the U.S., and military officials echoed the warning, Reuters reported last week. The Pentagon is also boosting its own cyber security in response to existing and emerging threats in both budget and manpower, with plans to hire an additional 4,000 personnel to the department’s Cyber Command.
The official responsibilities of cyber security are divided between the Department of Homeland Security, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), and the Department of Defense (DoD), which is ultimately where these new budget allocations, should they be approved, will be directed.
While unlike the old Cold War scenario, this is no one clear-cut opponent. While many attacks have reportedly been initiated from China -- China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) has developed a strategy called “Integrated Network Electronic Warfare” – that nation is not an exclusive adversary, and the number of attacks originating in Iran is on the rise.
Cyber attacks originating in China were the topic of a recent meeting between Chinese president Xi Jinping and Jack Lew, the United States secretary of the treasury, wrote U.S. News & World Report. American computer security experts have charged that more than 140 companies, including the New York Times, and government agencies worldwide have been hacked through attacks that originated in China. Chinese officials hotly deny the charge.
Obama's budget, released on Wednesday, proposes to boost Defense Department spending on cyber efforts to $4.7 billion, $800 million more than current levels, even as it plans to cut the Pentagon's overall spending by $3.9 billion, according to Reuters (News - Alert). Under the budget proposal, the Department of Homeland Security would spend $44 million more on a government-wide information-sharing effort even as its overall budget would shrink by $615 million, or 1.5 percent. The department also would fund more cyber security research and help private businesses and local governments bolster their online defenses.