Cyberattack repairs cost Pentagon $100 million in six months

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Updated Wednesday, April 8 at 5:27 p.m. EST

The Pentagon has spent more than $100 million in the past six months repairing damage to its networks caused by cyberattacks, according to military officials.

Officials last fall began tracking the amount of money being spent in response to cyberincidents after being directed to do so by Air Force General Kevin Chilton, commander of U.S. Strategic Command.

Army Brigadier General John Davis, deputy commander for network operations, told SCMagazineUS.com Wednesday, that he was one of the individuals tasked with keeping a record of spending. He said the Pentagon experiences millions of events each day, usually harmless probes by "bored teenagers."

Sometimes, however, it deals with more sophisticated threats from nation-states.

“There are events directed specifically to military networks, intrusion attempts, and those are the ones that take priority,” Davis said.

Davis and Chilton commented to reporters on the cost of defensive cyberspace activities on Tuesday at the inaugural Strategic Command Cyberspace Symposium in Omaha, Neb. Davis said he wanted to make the point that if government had spent money on preventative measures and “done the basics well,” they would have been in a much better fiscal position now.

“It would be nice to spend that kind of money in a proactive, preventive way rather than responding to network intrusions after the fact,” Davis said. "What we are talking about is a war fighting domain. This is an issue affecting operations, capabilities and war fighting platforms. Therefore, leaders need to be involved.”

James Lewis, director of technology and public policy at the Center for Strategic International Studies (CSIS), told SCMagazineUS.com that a Marine general recently told him that U.S military networks are probed 360 million times a day, and sometimes attackers have succeeded in getting in, which is why the Pentagon has to pay to clean them up.

Lewis said he thinks that much of the $100 million cleanup costs over the past six months can be attributed to an incident late last year, when, he said, foreign government spies broke into a classified Department of Defense (DoD) network and "sat there" for a couple of days.

The foreign government – which Lewis said could either have been the Russians or Chinese – was able to see what the U.S. military was doing, Lewis said. As a result, the DoD was forced to clean up hundreds of systems and machines.

“We are vulnerable" Lewis said. "Someone got in and it took a lot to clean it up. We know there's been other break-in incidents. We know foreign governments try every day to get into the Pentagon, so it's a major problem.”


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