Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel congratulates Gen. Keith Alexander during Alexander's retirement ceremony at the National Security Agency. (Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images)
The Defense Department will increase the number of cyber professionals from roughly 1,800 today to more than 6,000 by 2016, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said last week.
Hagel’s remarks came ahead of a trip to China in which he is expected to discuss cyber-related issues, during a speech at the retirement ceremony of Gen. Keith Alexander, commander of U.S. Cyber Command and director of the National Security Agency.
“Our military’s first responsibility is to prevent and de-escalate conflict and that is DoD’s overriding purpose in cyberspace as well,” Hagel said at the Ft. Meade, Md. event, where he stressed transparency. “We will continue to take steps to be open and transparent about our cyber capabilities, our doctrine and our forces with the American people, our allies and our partners – and even our competitors.”
Competitors such as the Chinese, however, may not necessarily agree.
On March 28 China's National Computer Network Emergency Response Coordination Centre said U.S. attacks made up a significant portion of a steep increase in hacking attacks on Chinese computers last year, which grew by more than half, according to Reuters.
"There are frequent occurrences of state-level organized Internet hacking attacks, and some of our country's important Internet information systems have been penetrated," the Chinese group said in a statement, according to the report.
The Centre said that last year 15,000 host computers were taken control of by Trojan horse malware, and 61,000 websites were taken control of through backdoor breaches from overseas – an increase of 62 percent over the previous year. Almost 11 million host computers had been taken control of by overseas-based servers, a third of which were from United States, as well South Korea and Hong Kong, the group said.
U.S. and Chinese cyber attacks on each other are nothing new, but defense officials said they hope the tension can be overcome through dialog and mutual understanding.
“It’s exactly one of the reasons that we’re trying to be more transparent about everything we do in cyberspace,” a senior defense official said in a call with reporters before Hagel’s appearance, according to reports. “We want the Chinese, just like we want our allies and others around the world, to understand what it is we're doing in building a cyber force at CyberCom, understand how we operate, understand the policies we use, like the policy of restraint.”