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DARPA Boosts Cybersecurity Research Spending 50%

Defense research agency calls boosting the nation's cyber offense, as well as defensive capabilities, crucial to combating modern threats.
Inside DHS' Classified Cyber-Coordination Headquarters
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Slideshow: Inside DHS' Classified Cyber-Coordination Headquarters
The Defense Advanced Projects Research Agency, birthplace of the Internet, plans to increase its spending on cyber research 50% over the next five years, and will increasingly focus on offensive cyber capabilities as well as defensive capabilities, agency director Regina Dugan said Monday.

"Modern warfare will demand the effective use of cyber, kinetic, and combined cyber and kinetic means," Dugan said, speaking before the DARPA Cyber Colloquium, a gathering of cyber professionals. "We need more options, we need more speed, and we need more scale. We must both protect its peaceful shared use as well as prepare for hostile cyber acts that threaten our military capabilities." DARPA sought $208 million in cyber spending in fiscal 2012, up from $120 million the year before, and that's just the start of the jump in spending.

Monday's speech was the first time that Dugan has publicly discussed DARPA's offensive cyber research, according to a DARPA spokesman. While she didn't go into deep details, other military speakers also mentioned offensive capabilities in more coded terms. For example, Army Cyber Command director Lt. Gen. Rhett Hernandez called for "cyber warriors" who could "operationalize cyberspace" with a "full range of cyber capabilities," including offensive capabilities.

Dugan repeated an oft repeated line that while military and critical infrastructure networks have grown more secure in recent years, they remain easily penetrated. She called the ability to grapple with security at Internet speed and scale "one of the most intense challenges of our time," and said that DARPA and others must come up with creative solutions to the challenge.

[The U.S. is already working with its allies to boost our cyber defense skills. Read U.S., Europe Do First Joint Exercise On Cybersecurity.]

In a speech after Dugan's, U.S. Cyber Command commander Gen. Keith Alexander outlined, by way of example, the scope of the challenge, noting recent well-publicized attacks on Nasdaq, RSA, Sony, Google, and Booz Allen Hamilton. "These organizations are supposed to be the best in the market, and in my opinion, they are," he said. "But they're the ones that recognized they were attacked. Most don't."

Dugan and other speakers echoed the idea that the current approach of layering security technology upon security technology will not resolve the problem, but will only result in more complexity.

"We are losing ground because we are inherently divergent from the threat," she said, noting that while the size of viruses has remained small over the years, the defensive security apparatus continues to grow. "Such divergences are the seeds of surprise, and this [size disparity] is a striking example of why it's currently easier to play offense rather than defense in cyber. This is not to suggest that we stop doing what we are doing in cybersecurity. But if we continue only down the current path, we will not converge with the threat."

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