October 5, 2009 By Chandler Harris
As the Pentagon continued its development of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program -- the costliest weapons project in U.S. history -- news surfaced in April that for more than a year, hackers downloaded several terabytes of sensitive data from contractors' computers.
The breach was a startling realization that even the most secretive projects are vulnerable. Defense Secretary Robert Gates admitted to CBS News that the United States is "under cyber-attack virtually all the time, every day" and that the Pentagon is changing its strategy to combat and use cyber-warfare in the U.S. defense policy. Gates ordered the creation of a new military cyber-command that will defend the Pentagon's networks and conduct cyber-warfare. The Pentagon also will more than quadruple the number of security experts it employs to combat cyber-attacks.
Yet as hackers and botnets -- groups of "zombie" computers that autonomously spam the Internet -- continue to attack organizations worldwide, a prevailing cyber-security question is how to unite the public and private sectors, as well as individual computers, to fight cyber-crime.
President Barack Obama announced that cyber-security is a national priority and that he'll appoint a cyber-security coordinator. He also stated that the U.S. government would collaborate with the private sector to create a comprehensive national cyber-security policy. But he did not outline citizen involvement, which some security experts say is crucial.
"I think civilian participation in cyber-security is absolutely essential because the systems that are used in attacks and most of the systems that are attacked are owned and operated by civilians," said Susan Brenner, professor of law and technology at the University of Dayton School of Law.
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