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Iran Press TV

Pentagon plans 'offensive' cyber force to 'defend' Wall Street

Iran Press TV

Wed Mar 13, 2013 10:30AM GMT

The US military plans to establish 13 offensive cyber teams to ‘defend the nation’ against cyber attacks that could harm the Wall Street financial center or disrupt electric power grids.

In a rare acknowledgment of US military units that use cyber weapons, Director of National Security Agency (NSA) and the head of Pentagon’s Cyber Command General Keith Alexander testified before a Congressional committee on Tuesday that the new teams will be created by the end of 2015 and are part of a broader American bid to shield the country from harmful Internet intrusions, The Washington Post reports Wednesday.

“I would like to be clear that this team… is an offensive team,” said Gen. Alexander in testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee, while underlining that the strategic threat picture is deteriorating.

The American military official specifically pointed to an August attack on Saudi Arabian oil company, Aramco, and persisting cyber intrusions against Wall Street Banks as particularly alarming.

“Last summer, in August, we saw a destructive attack on Saudi Aramco, where the data on over 30,000 systems were destroyed. And if you look at industry, especially the anti-virus community and others, they believe it’s going to grow more in 2013. And there’s a lot that we need to do to prepare for this,” said Alexander.

The US general, however, did not elaborate on the exact link between a cyber attack on the Saudi Arabian state-owned oil company and American corporate and government agencies.

“We’ve seen the attacks on Wall Street over the last six months grow significantly,” he added, pointing to more than 160 destructive attacks on US banks during that period.

Although the US has mostly blamed China and Russian for cyber attacks on its computer networks, some American press reports have alleged, with no evidence as usual, that Iran has waged the cyber intrusions on some US financial institution and the Saudi Aramco, in retaliation for a widely-publicized cyber attack on Iranian nuclear energy networks in a joint US-Israeli operation.

While Gen. Alexander made no mention of continuing American cyber attacks against other nations, he made clear that some of the US military’s cyber teams are already in place, focusing on “the most serious threats,” which he refused to identify.

The report further cites the top US official as saying that 27 other Pentagon cyber teams “would support commands such as the Pacific Command and the Central Command as they plan offensive cyber capabilities.”

Separate teams would focus on protecting the Defense Department’s computer networks, it notes.

The daily also cites “officials’’ as adding that one-third of the US cyber forces “will total several thousand civilians and uniformed personnel” and will be in position by September and another third will fall in place a year later.

The military official, however, warned US lawmakers that budget cuts will undermine Pentagon’s bid to establish its cyber forces while the foreign-based threats against ‘critical’ American computer networks intensify.

Meanwhile, in a separate Congressional testimony on Tuesday, Director of US National Intelligence James Clapper described cyber attacks on American governmental and corporate computer networks as a worse threat than a ground-based terrorist attack.


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