Historically, the Department of Defense has offered a few options for Naval Reserve Officers Corps scholarship students. These scholarships have been awarded to students who intend to earn an undergraduate degree in STEM fields. Upon graduation, these students enter the ranks of unrestricted line, commissioned officers in the following communities: Nursing Corps, Aviation, Submarine Fleet, Surface Fleet, Nuclear Surface Fleet, Marine Corps, and SPEC OP/SPECWAR (Navy SEALs EOD).
Within the past few years, cyber security and cyber warfare have become a great threat to our nation. So much so, that the Department of Defense has considered Cyber warfare its own community within the Navy, and in turn, has added cyber warfare to the list of communities that an NROTC scholarship student can enter into upon graduation.
The Navy has established this scholarship to be given out to only five applicants/year to students who demonstrate advanced cyber security skills. The Navy states that the new cyber-option NROTC scholarships are a key part of a comprehensive Navy strategy to attract, recruit, and develop elite cyber professionals needed to operate securely and effectively in cyber space. These scholarships are awarded to individuals who place in the top 20% at the “US Cyber Challenge Competition”
The goal of the “US Cyber Challenge Competition” is to “find 10,000 of America’s best and brightest to fill the ranks of cyber security professionals where their skills can be of the greatest value to our nation” These competitions focus on a potentially vulnerable sample web server as the artifact. The participants then identify flaws using vulnerability analysis skills. Competitors are also given tasks that are focused around forensic analysis, and packet capture analysis.
Defined as the fifth domain of warfare, the Pentagon has recognized cyberspace as a domain just as critical to military operations as land, sea, air, and space. In 2009, President Obama declared America’s digital infrastructure to be a “strategic national asset” You may be wondering what this idea of cyber warfare is. Cyber warfare refers to politically motivated hacking to conduct sabotage and espionage. Richard A. Clarke, a U.S. government security expert wrote a book titled Cyber War (May 2010). In his book, he defines “cyberwarfare” as “actions by a nation-state to penetrate another nation’s computers of networks for the purpose of causing damage or disruption.” The new U.S. Cyber Command (USCYBERCOM) was created in order to defend American military networks and attack other countries systems. Similarly, the EU and UK have also set up similar systems. It is implied that other countries have similar systems, as The Economist Stated that China has plans of “winning informationised ward by the mid-21st century” they also imply that other countries, such as Russia, Israel, S. Korea, and N. Korea are mobilizing for cyberwar.
Some Acts of Cyber Warfare
- 1998- in order for US and NATO to successfully bomb Serbian targets in Kosovo, the US hacked the Serbian air defense system.
- 1998-2000 US military and private research institutions were penetrated (called Moonlight Maze) the DoD traced this back to the former Soviet Union (Russia denies any involvement)
- 2003- Titan Rain- a series of attacks on American computer systems. Labeled as chinese in origin
- 2007- “an espionage Pearl Harbor” An attack in which an unknown foreign power broke into all of the high tech agencies, and military agencies, and downloaded terabytes of information
- 2008- US Military faced the most significant breach of US Military computers ever when the system was hacked and programed to deliver operational plans to an unknown adversary.
- April 2009, Pentagon announces more than $100 million in the last 6 months responding to cyber attacks and other network problems
- December 2009-January 2010- Operation Aurora, launched from China against Google and over 20 other companies. KcAffe stated that this attack was “the highest profile attack of its kind that we have seen in recent memory”
- June 19 2010- Senate gives the President, broad authority to take over telecommunications networks
- 2011- Anonymous attack on HBGary Federal, information on companies such as Endgame Systems, designer of offensive software for the DoD were revealed.
As you can see, the U.S. has been the target of many cyber attacks over the past decade or so. It has become a serious concern to the United States DoD. While the government has developed systems such as USCYBERCOM in order to strengthen the United State’s cyber security, the US still has a sever shortage of computer security specialists. There are an estimated 1,000 qualified people in the country today, however, to operate in the capacity needed, the country needs 20,000-30,00 experts in the field.