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Computer Security Threat Is Real, SPACECOM Chief Says

By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, April 5, 2001 – The four-star general whose organization is responsible for DoD computer security says the "cyber" threat against U.S. military information systems is real.

"My view is that as we look at our computer systems, we'd be kidding ourselves if we thought they weren't vulnerable," said Air Force Gen. Ralph E. Eberhart, U.S. Space Command commander in chief, during a March 28 interview with the American Forces Information Service.

Eberhart's command assumed responsibility for computer network defense in 1999, he said. The following year, it picked up the mission of computer network attack.

Today's threats against DoD -- and private-sector -- computer systems run the spectrum from the curious, bored high school or college student to state-sponsored 'cyber' war or computer network attack, he said.

DoD computer security experts "look at the (threat) capabilities that we know are out there," Eberhart said, adding, "we're never quite clear what the intent is." For example, he cited the difficulty in determining "whether this is a virus, whether this is a prank, whether this is sort of an innocuous probe or whether this is really somebody trying to destroy our network, deny us information, or worse yet, give us the wrong information."

Eberhart rated today's level of threat against DoD computer systems as "medium."

He noted that DoD and private-sector security specialists are also concerned and vigilant about "insider" threats to computer information systems. Such threats can range from espionage by agents working for foreign governments or rival corporations to acts by disgruntled employees.

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