US Pentagon computers cannot be protected, says NSA head
January 13, 2012 3 Comments
By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
The man in charge of America’s most powerful intelligence agency says the United States Department of Defense computer network is so disordered and chaotic that it cannot be defended from cyberattacks. General Keith Alexander directs the National Security Agency, America’s wealthiest intelligence institution, which expert James Bamford has described as “the world’s most powerful spy agency”. As America’s foremost signals intelligence agency, the NSA is largely responsible for protecting the integrity, security and cohesion of the country’s public and restricted military communications networks, including computer networks. To do so, it consumes an annual budget that dwarfs those of most other intelligence agencies, and employs entire armies of computer security experts and other professionals. But, according to General Alexander, who also heads the US Pentagon’s new Cyber Command, there is not much his army of cyberwarriors can do to either prevent or repel possible large-scale cyberattacks directed against the DoD’s computer networks. The NSA chief was speaking yesterday at the International Conference on Cyber Security, a high-profile gathering of experts at New York’s Fordham University. He told the conference, which is sponsored by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, that the Pentagon’s computer infrastructure is too anarchic and chaotic to be successfully defended from cyberespionage, cyberterrorism, or cyberwarfare assaults. He said the DoD computer system consists of so many interconnected networks —over 15,000 in all— that the NSA “can’t see them all [let alone] defend them all”. As a result, said Alexander, the DoD’s current communications infrastructure “is indefensible”. In a separate but related development, unmanned Predator drones used by the US Central Intelligence Agency appear to have switched their computer navigation systems from Windows to Linux, after discovering a potentially disastrous computer virus on the previous system. The existence of the virus was publicly revealed in October by an article on Wired magazine’s Danger Room blog, which said that the virus surreptitiously recorded every keystroke made by the drones’ remote pilots. Now British-based technology review The Register reports that comparable photographs of drone control systems taken in 2009 and 2011 seem to show that the CIA’s new Predator remote control systems are Linux-based.