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Pentagon: U.S. needs ‘more lethal force’ to combat foreign cyberattacks

September 19, 2018

The Department of Defense must harness cyberspace to amplify the U.S. military’s killing power in the face of persistent hacking campaigns waged by adversaries including Russia and China, the Trump administration said Tuesday.

An unclassified version of the Defense Department’s 2018 Cyber Strategy the first document of its kind in three years calls for countering constantly emerging threats from foreign hackers in part by developing the Pentagon’s deadliness.

“The 2018 DoD Cyber Strategy directs the Department to defend forward, shape the day-to-day competition and prepare for war by building a more lethal force, expanding alliances and partnerships, reforming the Department and cultivating talent, while actively competing against and deterring our competitors,” the document said. “Taken together, these mutually reinforcing activities will enable the Department to compete, deter and win in the cyberspace domain.”

“Using cyberspace to amplify military lethality and effectiveness” is a key theme of the strategy, the Pentagon said in an accompanying fact sheet.

The successor to a 2015 document released during former President Barack Obama’s second term, the strategy singles out both China and Russia, and specifically their own advances in the field of cyberwar, as reasons to increase the U.S. military’s own might.

“These States have expanded that competition to include persistent campaigns in and through cyberspace that pose longterm strategic risk to the Nation as well as to our allies and partners,” the document said. “China is eroding U.S. military overmatch and the Nation’s economic vitality by persistently exfiltrating sensitive information from U.S. public and private sector institutions. Russia has used cyber-enabled information operations to influence our population and challenge our democratic processes.

“During wartime, U.S. cyber forces will be prepared to operate alongside our air, land, sea and space forces to target adversary weaknesses, offset adversary strengths and amplify the effectiveness of other elements of the Joint Force,” the document continued. “The Joint Force will employ offensive cyber capabilities and innovative concepts that allow for the use of cyberspace operations across the full spectrum of conflict.”

Chinese and Russian state-sponsored hackers have been accused of conducting some of the most significant cyberattacks suffered by U.S. targets in recent years, including the 2015 U.S. Office of Personnel Management and 2016 Democratic National Committee data breaches, respectively.

The House of Representatives passed legislation this month directing the president to essentially name and shame foreign hackers accused of participating in state-sponsored cyberattacks against the U.S. government and the nation’s most critical computer networks.