Pentagon creates 13 offensive cyber teams for worldwide attacks

National Security Agency Director Gen. Keith Alexander. (AFP Photo / Getty Images / Chip Somodevilla)

National Security Agency Director Gen. Keith Alexander. (AFP Photo / Getty Images / Chip Somodevilla)

The head of the United States Cyber Command says the US is developing 40 new teams of cyber-agents that will both protect America’s critical infrastructure from hackers and as well as launch attacks against the country’s adversaries.

Gen. Keith Alexander, who leads both the Cyber Command and the National Security Agency, told the US Senate Armed Services Committee on Tuesday that the 40 online support teams should be ready for action by 2015, with 13 of those units existing specifically to attack other countries.

Alexander has been reluctant to go into detail about how the newly-designed teams will engage in cyber battle with America’s enemies, but he did say that the 13 squads of offensive fighters won’t be sitting around waiting for hackers from abroad to strike first. The NSA chief described the groups as ‘‘defend-the-nation’’teams but also stressed that their role will be one that puts them on both sides of the action.

“I would like to be clear that this team. . . is an offensive team,” he told reporters on Tuesday.

“The teams are analogous to battalions in the Army and Marine Corps — or squadrons in the Navy and Air Force,” said Alexander. “In short, they will soon be capable of operating on their own, with a range of operational and intelligence skill sets, as well as a mix of military and civilian personnel.”

Chris Strohm, a national security reporter for Bloomberg, says the units will“focus on missions such as protecting vital computer networks from attacks, supporting combat operations and keeping the Pentagon’s information-technology systems secure.”

The Associated Press reports that Gen. Alexander likened the teams’ duties to“knocking an incoming missile out of the sky before it hits a target,” and that they’d serve as defensive teams with added offensive capabilities.

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