Lt. Gen. Robert Kehler | Vigilance means guarding many levels

Q&A with Air Force Lt. Gen. Robert Kehler, deputy commander of the U.S. Strategic Command

Air Force Lt. Gen. Robert Kehler

Air Force Lt. Gen. Robert Kehler is deputy commander of the U.S. Strategic Command headquartered at Offutt Air Force Base, Omaha, Neb. STRATCOM is the military lead overseeing the department's Global Information Grid. The Joint Task Force for Global Network Operations, a component of STRATCOM, is responsible for operating and defending the GIG.

STRATCOM is one of nine unified commands. In addition to information operations, other STRATCOM mission areas include space operations, integrated missile defense, global command and control, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR), global strike and strategic deterrence.

GCN: What do we know for certain about cyberintrusions emanating from China?

Kehler: My personal view is ... [that] this threat exists in lots of places. We're trying to be vigilant in our activities, to have a tougher and tougher multilevel defense in all eventualities.

We have been on a pathway for quite some time to make our networks more and more difficult [to access] for those who don't have authorized use. Whether it's a 13-year-old somewhere who is malicious or whether it's a determined activity, we understand all kinds of people are potentially out there.

GCN: At a cyberwarfare conference in January, Air Force Lt. Gen. Charles Croom, director of the Defense Information Systems Agency, said that, in the past, most of the cyberincursions were domestic in origin, and now that has been reversed. Sixty percent of all incursions are international today. Why?


Kehler: I will tell you I think what you see here is a tremendous increase by everyone around the world. We ought to suspect that DOD and the United States [are] going to generate a lot of interest in our unclassified networks. I think it's not unreasonable to assume that we are going to have your criminal hacker kind of people trying to see what kind of damage they're going to do maliciously. There are nation-states [that] are going to be very interested in seeing what they can learn from our networks in terms of espionage.

I think we should expect what we're seeing. It's not a surprise to me. Espionage and those kinds of activities have been going on as long as there have been military forces. It is reasonable and prudent for us to assume we are going to find that kind of activity on our networks.

I believe that this vast increase in access to the global information network and our GIG has caused us to accelerate to stay ahead of this potential for malicious activity.

GCN: What is DOD doing to counter the threat?

Kehler: The things that I have to go through on my network, with [public-key infrastructure] and logging in with my passwords, prove we are very vigilant to what the U.S. [Computer Emergency Response Team] and others are able to tell us in terms of where we think the vulnerabilities are. We are also very introspective. We're looking at ourselves pretty hard to understand where our vulnerabilities are. We are practicing good network operational practices.

GCN: Was Titan Rain [a series of attacks on U.S. computer networks, believed to have been of Chinese origin] ever resolved?

Kehler: I can't comment on our involvement in investigations or any specific incidents. There are those that investigated that and have continued to investigate it. I think at this point it would be imprudent for me to comment on where that all is. But on any network-related activity, the Joint Task Force for Global Network Operations would be involved in that.

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