In recent years, information systems have become central to every aspect of American life, as well as assuming a critical role in government and private sector functionality, making cyber security a top priority in order to bolster national security.
The U.S. Army's first-of-its-kind dedicated computer network security brigade is now operational and has been deployed in support of combat-active units in the field.
The 780th Military Intelligence Brigade, originally conceived in 2008, will be utilized in a limited capacity until the teams are fully operational in 2015.
"We have an expeditionary cyber capability to assist Army units in defense of their networks. We have a team that is forward deployed right now in Afghanistan. They go forward to help the brigade combat team secure their networks," said the brigade’s commander, Col. John Sweet.
The final decision for the Army's Intelligence and Security Command (INSCOM) to assemble the 780th Military Intelligence Brigade was made in 2010, and the unit's colors were officially unfurled at an activation ceremony at NSA's Friedman Auditorium in Fort Meade, Md., on Dec. 1.
"With an urgent insistence and tremendous help from the National Security Agency, Department of Defense and U.S. Cyber Command, Army and Congressional staff, the U.S. Army Intelligence and Security Command created the 780th Military Intelligence Brigade to support U.S. and Army Cyber Commands with their missions to provide a proactive cyber defense," an Army press release stated.
The 780th has also been addressing the defense of Department of Defense networks which are under a constant barrage of intrusion events.
The DoD reports that there are over seven million computing devices in use by the military, and that their fifteen-thousand networks are subject to as many as 250,000 probes per hour.
"It’s a very complex threat—pervasive, evolving, highly intelligent, very adaptive to our countermeasures. It ranges from nation-states to non-nation-state actors, criminal elements and individual hackers. Motivations and goals range from the challenge of getting into a network to ideological goals to financial gain, including gathering information and intelligence to support foreign national interests. It’s a wide and varied threat we have to defend against," said Col. Sweet.
The rapidly changing threat landscape in the cyber domain necessitated the creation of the 780th, and application of the brigade's expertise will continue to broaden in scope over the coming years.
“If there’s anything that keeps me awake at night, it’s the technology and how fast our adversaries evolve and the techniques they’re using to try to get into our networks — and keeping up with that amount of information... We improve security every day in the conduct of our mission, working on the protection of the Department of Defense networks. We have successes every day as far as operations in the domain,” said Col. Sweet.