Much has been written and said about the U.S. government's need to improve its electronic defenses against the potential for cyber-attacks carried out by foreign nations.
The issue was highlighted in 2007, when government officials openly complained about the Chinese government's (successful?) attempts to hack into computers controlled by the Department of Defense, and even the very PC of the defense secretary himself.
However, rarely are the U.S. government's own proactive cyber-war efforts even mentioned publicly, while just about anyone familiar with IT security or international intelligence will wholeheartedly agree that we're likely doing as much to that end as China or anyone else.
Well, some people in Washington clearly don't think that we're doing enough.
Rep. Jim Langevin (D-R.I.) told UPI this week that he thinks that the United States needs to become even more aggressive in its cyber-war maneuvers.
And Langevin is someone very credible in IT security circles, exemplified by the award for "Excellence in the Field of Public Policy" that he received at this year's RSA Security Conference in April, and the role he is playing in planning cyber-security policy for the 44th presidency (that's the next one).
Langevin, who serves as chairman of the House Homeland Security Subcommittee on Emerging Threats, Cybersecurity, and Science and Technology, and is a member of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence -- is largely considered to be among the most intelligent and forward-thinking politicians in the country when it comes to protecting our electronic assets, so why does he think we need to go on the offensive?
As he was quoted saying to UPI:
"The best defense is a good offense and an offensive [cyber-war] capability is essential to our national defense," Langevin said. "Warfare is forever changed ... never again will we see major warfare without a strong cyber component executed as part of it."
That's pretty fascinating, as Langevin is a Democrat who is hardly considered a war hawk and has frequently spoken out against the Iraq War and its potential to negatively impact U.S. foreign policy in the long run.
At a recent hearing on cyber-security held by the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, Langevin also warned of a lack of consistency in the nation's ability to protect its critical infrastructure from potential cyber-attacks.
Langevin also told UPI that work on international treaties to deal with cyber-war offered "no real alternative to developing an offensive capability."
"That discussion at the international level may be appropriate at some point," he said. "There are treaties on cyber-crime that do exist, but it doesn't mean that cyber-crime doesn't occur."
Matt Hines has been following the IT industry for over a decade as a reporter and blogger, and has been specifically focused on the security space since 2003, including a previous stint writing for eWEEK and contributing to the Security Watch blog. Hines is currently employed as marketing communications manager at Core Security Technologies, a Boston-based maker of security testing software. The views expressed herein do not necessarily represent the views of Core Security, and neither the company, nor its products and services will be actively discussed in the blog. Please send news, research or tips to SecurityWatchBlog@gmail.com.