Cyber Attackers Have the Edge, US Experts Admit

Cybersecurity experts recently told Air Force Association Cyberfutures Conference attendees that they need to work closer with private industry and other governments to fight the changing landscape of cyber attackers.

The Office of Management and Budget claims that cyber attacks on agencies jumped 39 percent to 41,776 in 2010, up from 30,000 in 2009, according to a NationalJournal article by Josh Smith. The OMB also notes that the federal government spent about $12 billion on IT security, which is about 15 percent of the $80 billion total IT budget.

Cyber attacks aren't just limited to high-profile viruses with catchy names anymore; now cybercriminals use more targeted attacks to steal money, information or intellectual property, according to Greg Schaffer, who leads cybersecurity and communications efforts for the Department of Homeland Security. "This focus should be of tremendous concern, because it can have economic impact for years," Schaffer said. Telephone systems, water supplies and factories can all now be attacked.

Citing a new Homeland Security report, Schaffer said government officials need to work with their counterparts in private industry to prevent attacks rather than waiting for them and then reacting.

In a recent report by the Department of Homeland Security, plans were outlined for a three-pronged approach to cybersecurity: automation, interoperability and authentication. The report envisions a dynamic "ecosystem" of devices and systems that interact to protect themselves.

Collaboration is another area of concern. Gordon Snow, assistant director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation's Cyber Division, said there is plenty of information sharing, but not enough operational collaboration. He went on to say that protocols established under traditional international treaties are overwhelming.

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