By Andy Sullivan
WASHINGTON, April 10 President Barack Obama
proposed on Wednesday increased spending to protect U.S.
computer networks from Internet-based attacks in a sign that the
government aims to put more resources into the emerging global
cyber arms race.
Obama's budget proposal for the 2014 fiscal year, which
begins Oct. 1, calls for more military "hackers" to head off
escalating cyber threats from China, Iran, Russia and other
countries. It would also bolster defenses for government and
private-sector computer networks.
Intelligence officials said last month that cyber attacks
and espionage have supplanted terrorism as the top security
threat facing the United States, and military officials sounded
the alarm as well.
"Lock your doors," Air Force General Robert Kehler told
space and cyber industry executives at a conference in Colorado
on Tuesday. "Someone from halfway around the world is trying to
get into your network looking to steal what you are developing."
The Pentagon said the spending would be used to beef up U.S.
defenses against increasing cyber attacks, as well as boosting
its offensive capabilities.
The Stuxnet computer virus, which was discovered in 2010
after it was used to attack a uranium enrichment facility in
Iran, is widely believed to have been developed by the United
States and Israel.
The administration is making cybersecurity a priority at a
time when it is cutting back or holding the line on spending
across wide swaths of the government.
Obama's budget, released on Wednesday, proposes to boost
Defense Department spending on cyber efforts to $4.7 billion,
$800 million more than current levels, even as it plans to cut
the Pentagon's overall spending by $3.9 billion.
The Pentagon said it plans to expand its Cyber Command, a
team of military hackers conducting what it calls
"reconnaissance, surveillance, development, maintenance and
analysis." The Pentagon also said it would expand efforts to
protect its own computer networks.
Under the budget proposal, the Department of Homeland
Security would spend $44 million more on a government-wide
information-sharing effort even as its overall budget would
shrink by $615 million, or 1.5 percent. The department also
would fund more cybersecurity research and help private
businesses and local governments bolster their online defenses.
Much of the cybersecurity spending is contained in
classified reaches of the government that do not make their
budgets public, making quantifying the overall proposed increase
sought by the president impossible.
"The budget includes increases and improvements to a full
range of cyberspace activities," the Obama administration said
about its classified activities.
Separately, the House Intelligence Committee passed a bill
to remove legal barriers that have prevented the government and
private companies from protecting their networks against foreign
hackers, including tough provisions aimed at protecting privacy.
Representative Dutch Ruppersberger, the top Democrat on the
committee, on Monday said the modified bill had a better chance
of winning support in the Senate this year after privacy
concerns derailed similar legislation last year.
"A year later, what's changed? This is just getting more and
more serious," Ruppersberger told hundreds of industry
executives at a cyber conference hosted by the Space Foundation.
He cited government estimates that U.S. businesses had lost more
than $400 billion in intellectual property to cyber espionage.
Congressman Jim Langevin, co-founder of the Congressional
Cybersecurity Caucus, said the new bill included measures aimed
at ensuring private information was not unwittingly exposed
during any information-sharing between industry and government.
For instance, the bill encourages the private sector to
"anonymize" or "minimize" the information it voluntarily shares
with the government, and authorizes and encourages the
government to create procedures to protect privacy.
It also puts in place restrictions on the use, retention,
and searching of any data voluntarily shared by the private
sector with the government, and permits individuals to sue the
federal government for any such disclosures