The National Security Agency is, by nature, an extreme example of the e-hoarder. And as the governmental organization responsible for things like, say, gathering intelligence on such Persons of Interest as Osama bin Laden, that impulse makes sense--though once you hear the specifics, it still seems pretty incredible. In a story about the bin Laden mission, the NSA very casually dropped a number: Every six hours, the agency collects as much data as is stored in the entire Library of Congress.
A former NSA computer espionage specialist has created a blueprint for destroying the United States's cyber defenses and bringing about "Internet Armageddon," and it doesn't take the kind of unmanageable resources one might think. Charlie Miller says that a devastating cyber attack would only require 2 years, roughly a thousand cyber-soldiers, and a mere $100 million.
While various cyber-attacks against US government and business targets are numerous and well-documented, America's own offensive capabilities in this area have remained mostly out of view. However, in his recent testimony before Congress, NSA chief Lt. General Keith Alexander reversed that history a bit, and confirmed that the US has, and is, engaged in offensive cyber-warfare. Alexander also explicated how cyber-combat factors into the general doctrine of legality of war.
We always knew that the National Security Agency collects a lot of surveillance data from satellites and by other means, but we never quite imagined it was this much: the NSA estimates it will have enough data by 2015 to fill a million datacenters spread across the equivalent combined area of Delaware and Rhode Island. The NSA wants to store yottabytes of data, and one yottabyte comes to 1,000,000,000,000,000 GB.
Patriotic geeks might want to brush off those resumes, because the long-awaited U.S. Cyber Command officially went live last Thursday, and hopes to recruit at least 1,000 cyber security experts over the next few years. But the newly formed group faces questions about its mission and responsibilities, as well as competition for recruits from U.S. intelligence agencies.
The announcement by the Department of Homeland Security also coincided with the kickoff of National Cybersecurity Awareness Month, which infuses the usual trick-or-treat spirit of October with additional meaning.