WASHINGTON— Each day, the Army faces “hundreds of thousands” of attempts to infiltrate its network, said Lt. Gen. Paul Nakasone, chief of U.S. Cyber Command.
“We have to be right every single time,” Nakasone said at the 2017 Defense One Summit July 13 in Washington DC. “The attacker only has to be right once; to find one vulnerability … We’re looking at vulnerabilities across our network. We’re looking at the key terrain like any military force.”
Nakasone, speaking in a panel with Defense One Executive Editor Kevin Baron, faced questions on concerns over possible internet attacks from North Korea, Russia and ISIS, but stressed the importance of solid analysis as a deterrent to cyber security breaches.
“We have the world’s adversaries trying to come at our nation,” Nakasone said.
In the wake of alleged Russian hacks into the 2016 American election, Nakasone said the key to preventing similar threats should come from analysis and research. Cyber Command, along with other branches, is in the midst of creating 133 cyber teams, including 41 for the Army. The Army is meeting the changing demands of cyber security, he said, and recruiting leaders with the skills necessary to rise to those challenges.
Army Cyber Command has participated in exercises at the National Training Center, Fort Irwin, California, to gain a better understanding of what a brigade combat team needs to achieve success at the tactical level. ARCYBER studied how a BCT commander should use social media and how a team can better defend their networks. Nakasone said the Army will bring in 60 new second lieutenants to Cyber Command with a science background. A pending proposal would be to commission skilled applicants as mid-grade officers. Nakasone said the requirements and perquisites for those positions are still being discussed.
“We are going to need coders, we’re going to need malware forensics analysts,” Nakasone said. “We are going to need top talent, he said about the option being looked at.”
To help attract tech-savvy recruits, Army Cyber Command created an interactive link in a video on the ARCYBER webpage and YouTube Channel, inviting hackers to solve a puzzle. Nakasone said about 800,000 people attempted to solve the puzzle — less than 1 percent successfully completed it. The link generated 1.3 million hits on Cyber Command’s website and 9.8 million views on YouTube.
“We wanted to create an excitement (and) an ability for our best talent in the nation to take a look and want to be part of our force,” Nakasone said. “The intent was, how do you generate that excitement? This is one of the ways that we did it.”
Nakasone also addressed the importance of artificial intelligence and its impact on operations and supporting Cyber Command to automate tasks. Nakasone stressed that more needs to be done.
“I would love to have a self-healing network; that as soon as we see a vulnerability, it requires very little effort to have that vulnerability patched,” Nakasone said. “A.I. can help us with that. We are obviously very interested in terms of how do you take a force that is only so big back to the question of resources and make that larger? Well one of the ways that you can do that is through artificial intelligence, and how do we get more capability… I certainly believe that’s the future for us.”
Finally, Nakasone lauded Cyber Command efforts in service integration and working with the other military branches in cyber offense and defense.