USMC Networks 'Attacked Every Millisecond'


Mark A. Kellner

Computer networks supporting the U.S. Marine Corps are under siege, its top information officer said recently.

Brig. Gen. George Allen, Marine Corps C4 director and chief information officer (CIO), said the service.s networks "are being attacked every millisecond of every day. During the time I'm speaking, we will have had 100,000 attacks."

The attacks are being deflected, but enemies "need only one success to be successful" in breaching network security, Allen said in a March 14 address to the Washington chapter of the Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association. "Information assurance is one of the biggest growth industries" in the Pentagon, he said.

In the future, a "network Marine" should be able to share data easily with Corps command and fellow troops alike, Allen said.

The idea, Allen said, is to have an entire corps of Marines who have "an eye toward networks, network management, network configurations and network architectures, and making them understand that. So that regardless of what scenario they happen to be in, in this war on terrorism, they can adapt and not have to call in other guys who are specialists. We make them all savvy enough that they can handle anything ... And that's difficult to do, because that's not the way we've trained in the past."

That networked future is not without its complications. Security is an obvious challenge, he said, but another is the size of applications and how to get that data to troops who likely will not have huge broadband pipes in the field.

Allen said the Marine Corps Network Operations & Security Command has "a requirement for network management tools and how we manage the network for computer defense and information assurance."

He said the command is looking at tools available from the Pentagons Defense Information Systems Agency but also welcomed proposals from industry.

Concerns over network security aren't limited to the Marines. In a March 21 address to the Federal Office Systems Exposition, Air Force Lt. Gen. Robert Elder, who heads the service's nascent Cyberspace Command, said that network security is a key priority: "Without freedom of action in cyberspace, we cannot do any other operation," he told the convention audience. •

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