Ability to respond to cyberattacks hampered, US officials say

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 20 May, 2014, 10:12pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 20 May, 2014, 10:12pm

US military experts said current acquisition rules hampered their ability to respond quickly to a growing number of cyberattacks against the country's weapons and computer networks and new approaches were needed.

Kristina Harrington, director of the signals intelligence directorate at the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO), said on Monday that acquisition programmes typically took about two years to initiate and execute, but rapidly changing threats in the cyber domain required a different approach.

"The current acquisition process is not fast enough to keep up with the speed [of the threat]," Harrington said at a space and cyber conference hosted by the Space Foundation. "Two years after we started is too late in the cyberindustry."

NRO designs, builds and operates spy satellites for the US military and intelligence communities.

Harrington and other government and industry speakers underscored their concerns about growing and increasingly sophisticated attacks on US computer networks and said the Pentagon was working hard to beef up cybersecurity. Their comments came on Monday, the same day that the US government charged five Chinese military officers with hacking into American nuclear, metal and solar companies to steal trade secrets. These are the first criminal hacking charges filed by Washington against specific foreign individuals.

Harrington said she understood that lawmakers needed to carefully oversee acquisition programmes, but said rapid changes in the cyberworld meant the government needed more flexibility to respond than the current acquisition system offered.