Listen to the generals speak, and you’d think the Pentagon’s networks were about to be overrun with worms and Trojans. But a draft federal report indicates that the number of “incidents of malicious cyber activity” in the Defense Department has actually decreased in 2010. It’s the first such decline since the turn of the millennium.
The figures are in stark contrast to the sky-is-falling talk coming out of the Beltway.
“Over the past ten years, the frequency and sophistication of intrusions into U.S.military networks have increased exponentially,” Deputy Defense Secretary William Lynn wrote in a recent issue of Foreign Affairs.
In his April Senate Armed Services Committee confirmation hearing, U.S. Cyber Command and National Security Agency chief Lt. Gen. Keith Alexander said he was “alarmed by the increase, especially this year” in the number of attempts to scan military networks for potential vulnerabilities.
Does that mean the Pentagon is suddenly safe from hack attacks? Of course not. Could some adversaries be in the process of trading malware quantity for malware quality? Of course they could. But, at least in this most basic of measures, there are indications that the threat to Defense Department networks may not be quite as overwhelming and unstoppable as some in the military brass have led us to believe.