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Cyberwarfare: Tomorrow’s warriors?

A View From the Edge

Schools are wrong, according to Lynn Dugle, president of Raytheon Intelligence and Information Systems.

“We are looking for talent in all the wrong places. And the organizations, agencies and companies that most need this type of talent will be the least likely to attract it.” Aerospace and defense are “over-reliant on historical learning methods and processes,” she went on to explain. She has “a real prejudice toward people who work 9 to 5, are willing to contain their personal time off to three weeks, and to charge their time in six-minute intervals.”

What she wants are people, the next generation of cyberwarriors, to come from way outside those normal educational arenas.

For example, she has been recruiting hackers. “Hacker contests are team events: To solve these things it takes more than one person. And then we saw a high schooler who had enrolled … as an individual. He did very well. So we identified him and followed up.”

He’s now working at Raytheon, from home, his car, wherever. Maybe between rides on the nearest wave, dude.

Diane Miller of Northrop Grumman tells a tale of hiring a garage mechanic picked out of a competition called CyberPatriot, a competition set up precisely to highlight these rogue experts. Lockheed is meanwhile enrolling volunteer students into its Cyber University and has already placed 400 to 500 of these in jobs at Lockheed, about 25 percent of those in cyberwarfare defense (or offense).

Speaking of CyberPatriot, teams from hundreds of schools across the nation entered the competition, and when the teams had been reduced to 30, the stalking industry recruiters moved in. And the same is happening at the college level. Northrop’s Cybersecurity Research Consortium includes MIT, Carnegie Mellon and Purdue.

But high school and universities may be too little too late for future cyberwarfare defense. Duke Ayers, a major player in CyberPatriot, thinks that may not be good enough.

“We cannot sit back and wait, and think college is the place to train them,” he said. “We need to start with awareness training, at kindergarten and a bit older, so they understand how to protect themselves. Then as they get older, in their early teens, we need to provide the real environment in which they can learn to protect others with real systems.”

He feels CyberPatriot has started that process by identifying talent later on and yet still creating peer pressure for others much younger to follow the same career path.

Meantime, there is a real war going on, battles fought and won, fought and lost, fought and drawn, every day all across the nation. Your computer fights the battle automatically with every email you receive but needs to be updated every hour (or less) to make sure the newest identified threat is thwarted before it is too late.

But if the attacker had targeted you, only you, chances are you would have been violated before now. Today it may be your laptop. Tomorrow your car, via OnStar or your car/cell phone hook up, maybe putting your car in reverse at 70 mph on the freeway, causing citywide chaos (not to mention your injuries).

All these threats are real (Lockheed Martin, for instance, has already been prey), and our defense industry is trying to get to grips with them. It does not take a poor pilot at the mechanical controls of a plane to bring a nation momentarily to its knees. There is the new cyber enemy warrior or terrorist we must safeguard against.

Congress needs to be part of the solution or get the heck out of the way. If there is a probe into a computer, the computer and cyberwarriors should be allowed to frighten them off or counter-attack before it is too late. Passive resistance is not effective in the cyber realm.

Peter Riva, formerly of Amenia Union, lives in New Mexico.