The incidents of cyberwarfare are ever increasing, targeting more and more countries and becoming legitimate. Part of the Ukrainian power grid was attacked by hackers, causing blackouts; US accused Iranians of attempting to hack into the control-system of a dam. Russia was also suspected for cyber-attack on Turkey following the downing of a Russian fighter jet late last year. The US Government itself has announced to have launched a series of cyber-attacks against the Islamic State coordinated by the Cyber Command.
US and other countries including U.K., China, Russia, North & South Korea, Israel and others are setting up Unified cyber commands for more effective and coordinated efforts for conducting cyberspace operations, both offensive and defensive. The offensive operations are seen as deterrent to adversaries.
However their is also problem of adequate manning and training of cyber warriors. The cyber warfare requires personnel with different skill sets that than traditional soldiers. The militaries are having a hard time getting people with essential information technology and information security skill sets as the services struggle to build a force of “cyber-warriors.” During a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing today, senators focused in part on how the work force problem is affecting the US Cyber Command’s (US CYBERCOM’s) ability to deal with the demands of information warfare and threats both to the Defense Department’s networks and those of other agencies and industry.
That will require a radical departure from the military’s usual approach to recruiting—particularly since few people who already have the skills the DOD wants would be drawn to the typical military recruitment cycle. People who are usually drawn to the military would require years of training to meet the services’ needs. But Rogers was insistent that, whatever the solution, it wouldn’t be a separate “cyber force,” because the military needs personnel who had the context of the overall mission. Only people embedded in the military would have that.
One of the ways militaries have found to get over the shortages of cyber warriors is to establish geek armies to carry out cyber defense. In the US, the Pentagon announced two years ago it would hire 2000 private sector and National Guard computer specialists to provide a “surge force’’ to be deployed in the event of a major cyber attack.
The size and scope of the cyber workforce with the Department of Defense has been an issue for years. But Gen. Robert Neller, commandant of the Marine Corps, said retaining those workers is paramount if the Defense Department wants to stay on the leading edge of the cyber front. “We’re at the point now, if you make it through all the wickets, and you become a cyber Marine, if you will, and you’re qualified to do mission protection or attack or cyber mission force stuff, you’re not leaving,” he said.
Australian Turnbull Government is actively considered forming army of computer geeks to protect Australia from a cyber attack.
The geek army would complement the newly-established Information Warfare Division, the full-time unit established within the Australian Defence Force in Canberra to defend Australia against cyber-attack.
A “grey war” is being waged online as cyber attacks sweep the globe – with “geeks” needed to confront the threat, U.K. Defence Secretary Sir Michael Fallon warned. He told the Royal United Services Institute’s Land Warfare Conference: “We have anonymous cyber foes, sponsored by state or non-state entities, lurking behind the veil of encryption, targeting our national infrastructure as we saw with the recent cyber strike on Parliament itself. “That isn’t a Cold War, that is a grey war permanently teetering on the edge of outright hostility , hovering around the threshold of what we would normally consider to be an act of war.”
Britain needed to attract the right talent to deal with the increasingly complex environment, he said. The Armed Forces needed to recruit a new generation of “geeks and tech wizards” to tackle the spiralling threat of cyber warfare, Sir Michael said. “We know that we need to maintain the Army as an attractive proposition to those who might not have immediately considered choosing a military career – cyber geeks, tech wizards.
The US government is assembling a unit of computer geeks for what will be known as the “Cyber Reserve.”
One of the possible solutions that the DOD has looked at is bringing people with experience and skills essential to offensive and defensive cyber operations into the service “laterally.” That means giving them ranks (and pay grades) commensurate to their skills and entirely bypassing the normal recruitment and advancement process.
Even the Marine Corps, which has long required all marines to go through the same basic rifleman training, is considering changes. The potential changes include allowing people with sought-after skills to enter the Corps directly as noncommissioned officers and skip boot camp.
In a speech at a US Naval Institute event in December, the Marine Corps Times reported, Commandant of the Marine Corps Robert B. Neller said that having a skilled cyber workforce within the service was critical: “If you don’t have those things, whatever formation you put on the battlefield is not going to be as survivable or combat effective without them.
The Department of Homeland Security said that the Cyber Reserve would function like a National Guard for computer-related emergencies. This isn’t exactly a new idea. The same law Congress passed in 2002 that established the Department of Homeland Security grants the department permission to build a “National Emergency Technology (NET) Guard” of on-call volunteer specialists to assist in cyber crises.
However for some reason the unit was never formed and now the US is falling behind the rest of the world. Estonia has already started building its own volunteer cyber corps. Initially the group will scout for troops at community colleges. Cyber Reserve will also incorporate two-year training programs into higher education at certain schools. The programs could start as soon as next school year.
Australian government considering plan to roll out geek army in response to cyber attacks
News Corp can reveal the Government is looking to hire private-sector computer specialists as Army Reservists to boost the Australian Defence Force’s cyber warfare capability. The keyboard commandos would be recruited from top tech firms, universities, banks and telecommunications companies.
They would receive a tax-free Army salary, and be required to work between 20-100 days a year, like all other Defence reservists. They would be deployed as a rapid-reaction hit squad, called up for duty when a major cyber attack targeted Australia’s critical infrastructure such as airports, the national electricity grid, or the military.
The boffins would also be deployed in the event of a serious global ransomware attack such as the recent Petya and WannaCry attacks which crippled hospitals, banks and oil companies around the world. Their specialised skills are also likely to boost the cyber capability of the Australian Defence Force more broadly.
The Government is understood to be preparing to adopt the United Kingdom’s Cyber Reserve program, which launched in 2013 and employs 500 top-tier computer specialists as military reservists.
Australia’s Cyber Security Minister Dan Tehan received briefings from the Cyber Reserve command when he was in London last month.
Australia is following the lead of NATO countries in Europe and boosting its cyber warfare capacity, as states such as China, Russia and North Korea, terrorist groups and organised criminal gangs, increasingly turn cyberspace into a battlefield.
The Australian cyber reservists would include boffins who were experts in hacking, computer security, coding, operating systems, networks, the dark web, firewalls and cracking encrypted messages.
Standard defence force fitness tests would be waived on a case-by- case basis, on the grounds the geeks are not being deployed to a physical frontline. They would have to undergo strict psychological tests and security clearances before being employed.
Currently, the military and the private sector are competing for top-tier cyber security specialists, and a new Cyber Reserve could ease that problem by allowing people to remain in higher-paid private-sector jobs while also doing their patriotic duty with the Australian Defence Force.
The ADF employs people part-time as Reservists in jobs ranging from plumbers to soldiers to dentists to musicians but until now have never had computer specialists in their Reserve ranks.