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Cadets Trade the Trenches For Firewalls

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cadets in cyberwar games at West Point

U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates said the Pentagon is "desperately short" of people with cyberwar capabilities.

Michael Falco / The New York Times

Throughout the U.S. military there is heightened awareness that the threat of a computer attack is just as urgent as a physical attack, and that military units must be trained to counter it. In April, cadets at West Point and other military academies participated in annual cyberwar games in which teams had to set up secure computer networks and defend them against attacks engineered by the National Science Foundation (NSF).

Last year, the Army set up the Network Warfare Battalion, which many of the cadets in the cyberwar games hope to be assigned to. Meanwhile, Nellis Air Force base in Nevada is home to the 57th Information Aggressor Squadron, a group of hackers who use the latest offensive software — some of which was developed by NSF cryptologists — to probe military computer networks for chinks in their armor. Only 80 students graduate each year from the Defense Department's cyberwar schools, but the current Pentagon budget proposals seek to boost the number of students cycled through the schools by 400 percent in the next two years.

Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates says the Pentagon is "desperately short of people who have [cyberdefense] capabilities in this area in all the services, and we have to address it." Establishing a secure Internet link is an early priority for military units when they deploy in combat zones or during a domestic emergency.

From The New York Times
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Abstracts Copyright © 2009 Information Inc., Bethesda, Maryland, USA


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