Cyber-threats to US allies hamstring future cooperation

DOD cyberwarfare specialists are wary over transmitting sensitive details on U.S. cybersecurity efforts to partner nations, fearing that information may be stolen in the process. 

U.S. adversaries, particularly North Korea and China, have stepped up their efforts to breach American defense and civilian networks.

ADVERTISEMENT
The weakly-secured networks of some American allies could be next target of those attacks, if they have not already been breached. 

That wariness has proven to be a considerable roadblock to ongoing collaborations between the Pentagon and allied countries, Rear Adm. Samuel Cox said in a Tuesday speech in Washington. 

Cox, who is the head of intelligence at U.S. Cyber Command, declined to comment on which countries posed the biggest liability to ongoing cyber-operations during the speech. 

He did note that the cybersecurity applications in place on networks operated by the United Kingdom and Australia were not at risk, according to reports by the Associated Press. 

However, that threat has not stopped DOD from expanding the number of countries it collaborates with on cyber issues. 

Pentagon cyber officials are reaching out to Japan, South Korea and New Zealand about expanding cooperation with the U.S on cyber, Steven Schleien, DoD's principal director for cyber policy, said at the same event on Tuesday.

"We started with our traditional treaty allies, those with whom we have commitments," Schleien said. 

But in light of growing threats to the US and its allies, the Pentagon is looking to grow that circle of international cyber allies. 

Cox and Schleien's comments come as DOD is in the midst of revamping its own policy on it, defends against and possibly responds to cyberattacks against the United States. 

The Pentagon has also ramped up spending on cyberwarfare technologies, including tools to potentially carry out a cyberattack against potential threats.

The new "standing rules of engagement" will look to expand existing Pentagon protocols regarding cyberattacks beyond military networks, Cyber Command chief Gen. Keith Alexander told Congress in March.

The goal will be expanding DOD's authority in the cyber realm to give the White House more options on how to respond to a large-scale cyberattack, Alexander said at the time.  

That new plan is expected to be complete by late May, the four-star general told members of the Senate Armed Services Committee. 

The current rules governing cyberattacks were drafted in 2005, under then-Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Richard Myers.

--the story was updated at 6:33pm to add comments from Steven Schleien, DoD's principal director for cyber policy.