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Why Warriors, Not Geeks, Run US Cyber Command Posts

timothy posted about 4 years ago | from the broad-brush-swung-broadly dept.

The Military 483

koterica writes "The Washington Post explains why the military prefers to have combat veterans rather than geeks running network security. '"It was supposed to be a war fighter unit, not a geek unit," said task force veteran Jason Healey, who had served as an Air Force signals intelligence officer. A fighter would understand, for instance, if an enemy had penetrated the networks and changed coordinates or target times, said Dusty Rhoads, a retired Air Force colonel and former F-117 pilot who recruited the original task force members. "A techie wouldn't have a clue," he said.'"

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Umm (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Showered (1443719) | about 4 years ago | (#33697824)

Why not train the geeks to understand all the technical details?

Re:Umm (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33697840)

Well, why not train the warriors to understand all the geeky details?

Re:Umm (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Showered (1443719) | about 4 years ago | (#33697852)

I would like to think that true geeks learn at a quicker pace than most people, and are generally more adept at problem-solving.

why would you think that? (4, Interesting)

Presto Vivace (882157) | about 4 years ago | (#33697890)

besides, it is not as if there are not plenty of geeky soldiers. I heard a presentation on how one outfit in Iraq downloaded all this free software because what they had was not sufficient for their needs and they did not have time to go through the procurement process, so they took the free software.

Re:Umm (1, Offtopic)

u-235-sentinel (594077) | about 4 years ago | (#33697978)

I would like to think that true geeks learn at a quicker pace than most people, and are generally more adept at problem-solving.

Unfortunately it's the really smart people hiring us dumb geeks that are running the cyber fighting unit. Must be amazing how many guns they can stick in those dang tubes running the internet.

Keyboard? How quaint ;-)

Re:Umm (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33698092)

Must be amazing how many guns they can stick in those dang tubes running the internet.

Thats why you need soldiers. They see a truck blocking one of those intertubes and they'll blow
it up. Bunch of guns in the way.. blow them up. A geek would spend 5 minutes writing an algorithm
to most efficiently sort the guns as they remove them.

Re:Umm (3, Insightful)

murdocj (543661) | about 4 years ago | (#33698034)

You might like to think that. I might think that a warrior, who has to learn or die, learns at a quicker pace than most people, and is more adept at problem solving.

By the way, I'm a geek, not a warrior. I'd love to think that geeks are smarter and maybe even sexier. I just haven't seen any evidence yet.

Re:Umm (5, Insightful)

Moryath (553296) | about 4 years ago | (#33698088)

I might think that a warrior, who has to learn or die, learns at a quicker pace than most people, and is more adept at problem solving.

Bullshit. Sad but true, soldiers are taught two contradictory things: "return fire" and "follow the Rules of Engagement." This leads to all sorts of trouble, especially since the "Rules of Engagement" for Iraq and Afghanistan are thicker than a copy of Tolstoy's War And Peace in 10-point font.

Add to that the fact that this is not a front-line duty. They're not going to be sitting there personally shot if they don't get something right. What's needed is specialists adept at detecting network intrusion, checking over the logfiles, ensuring that there aren't holes in security in the first place. This isn't reflex action, this is deliberative effort.

Re:Umm (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33697868)

Because it's easier to train a meathead to be a nerd than to teach a nerd when someone is trying to give your nation a wedgie?

Re:Umm (1)

The Mighty Buzzard (878441) | about 4 years ago | (#33697988)

Primarily because system/network security takes longer to train someone in than half a dozen "warrior" MOSs put together. Take it from a guy who's done both.

Re:Umm (1)

0100010001010011 (652467) | about 4 years ago | (#33698000)

Same reason numerous engineers go into technical management.

You can teach an engineer to manage, for the most part you can't teach managers engineering.

There have to be some technical people in the military that could be promoted from within into these positions rather than just a throttle jockey.

Re:Umm (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33698144)

Right, we all know that any idiot with no technical knowledge whatsoever can fly a modern fighter jet. That's why we have "throttle jockey" school, it keeps the real idiots separate from the rest of the military so they don't confuse everybody else.

Re:Umm (5, Informative)

meerling (1487879) | about 4 years ago | (#33698220)

I was in the USAF and had to deal with pilots fairly often. It's true they are good with their planes, but most of them are rather stupid and would fail most logic tests. (But they tend to have egos the size of Texas, and the dumber they are, the bigger the ego.)
There are exceptions, about 20%, but for the most part, don't let them near anything that's not a plane they've trained on.

Their warmaking skills need some improvement first (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33698006)

American "warriors" haven't even had much success with their warmaking abilities over the past 60 or so years.

It was mostly European scientists who won WWII for the Americans, thanks to their development of nuclear technology.

The Korean War was basically a draw. In many ways, it was an outright loss for the Americans, since they've had to keep troops stationed there for decades now, and this is quite costly.

The Vietnam War was indisputably a major loss.

The Cold War was initially thought to be an American "win", but it was more due to problems within the USSR, rather than anything America did. Worst of all, Reagan's policies from that period have clearly been very destructive to America, and are primarily responsible for the current poor state of the economy.

The First Gulf War can barely be considered a war, given that their enemy was almost non-existent, and had itself been subject to a decade of devastating war just before.

The Second Gulf War was a complete failure.

The War in Afghanistan has been nothing but a disaster, as well.

That's a whole lot of failure, for sure.

Re:Their warmaking skills need some improvement fi (1)

Phase Shifter (70817) | about 4 years ago | (#33698056)

The Korean War was basically a draw. In many ways, it was an outright loss for the Americans, since they've had to keep troops stationed there for decades now, and this is quite costly.

By that logic, the Revolutionary War was a loss, because we've needed a US-based military for 200 years.

Re:Their warmaking skills need some improvement fi (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33698138)

Uhh, you do realize that there were no American citizens involved in that conflict, correct? Those were British subjects fighting with other British subjects. It was not an American victory in any way, as the United States of America did not even exist at that point.

Re:Their warmaking skills need some improvement fi (1)

JustOK (667959) | about 4 years ago | (#33698254)

so, we're still occupied by the British?

Re:Umm (1)

couchslug (175151) | about 4 years ago | (#33698238)

The ideal solution would be to cross-train BOTH so they form a better team, then pick the best of that team to run the show.

Geek and warrior are not mutually exclusive.

Re:Umm (4, Funny)

mfh (56) | about 4 years ago | (#33697842)

Geeks cannot be trained. We are all hatched.

Re:Umm (1)

TheGratefulNet (143330) | about 4 years ago | (#33697926)

the sky is blue; I write in C.

(huh??)

Re:Umm (1)

Temposs (787432) | about 4 years ago | (#33698132)

GP made a reference to Starcraft. In Starcraft, Terran fighting units are "trained". The Zerg race, which is a race of bug-like creatures, "hatches" its fighting units out of eggs.

So, GP is implying that geeks are of the Zerg race. :-)

Re:Umm (2, Funny)

peragrin (659227) | about 4 years ago | (#33698202)

well that explains where the smell comes from.

Re:Umm (4, Funny)

zill (1690130) | about 4 years ago | (#33697922)

We have flame-wars about OS, distribution, editor, and even browser.

What do you think would happen in those flame-wars when we get our hands on stealth bombers and ICBMs?

Re:Umm (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33698044)

What you're saying, is that we're too aggressive. Considering many of us relax by playing gore filled games, I'd agree.

Re:Umm (1)

aliddell (1716018) | about 4 years ago | (#33698148)

No, I think he's saying that we get too caught up in minutiae. WAY too caught up.

Re:Umm (2, Insightful)

CarpetShark (865376) | about 4 years ago | (#33698028)

Why not train the geeks to understand all the technical details?

Because geeks have a mind of their own?

Re:Umm (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33698072)

or, why can't the two work side-by-side, learning from each other as they go. Several years go by & guess what -- each guy has a much better understanding of the other guy's expertise. With all the money the military throws around, there's no way that they can claim that doubling (or just an increase, not necessarily a doubling) of personnel in the cybercrime unit would be cost prohibitive.

Re:Umm (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33698100)

You can train a geek to understand all the technical details but military has no use for people who questions authority and with a tendency to rebel.

Re:Umm (4, Insightful)

couchslug (175151) | about 4 years ago | (#33698270)

"You can train a geek to understand all the technical details but military has no use for people who questions authority and with a tendency to rebel."

No, the military has little use for self-centered cunts, because there is sound reason for the authority structure.

My solution would be to train both groups together so the geeks get combat time (real, not fapping in some FOB) and send the "warriors" (WTF ever happened to calling soldiers "soldiers"?) for tech training so NEITHER group thinks the sun shines out their arse.

Re:Umm (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33698130)

An enemy doesn't even need to change anything. All the enemy has to do is SPY and he will surely win any war.

Re:Umm (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33698214)

Then they aren't geeks anymore...?

Bullshit (5, Insightful)

PakProtector (115173) | about 4 years ago | (#33697828)

That is entirely what that sounds like.

Re:Bullshit (1)

iluvcapra (782887) | about 4 years ago | (#33697904)

Military social structure uses bizarre and arbitrary rights of passage, shibboleths, coded jargon (like "war fighter," because too many people think they know what a "soldier" is, means, and does), and social signifiers in order to maintain hierarchy and moral legitimacy. Shocking.

Re:Bullshit (2, Insightful)

gandhi_2 (1108023) | about 4 years ago | (#33697912)

Not that you would know.

There are things that you would have to have been in the culture for a while to understand. Yesterdays story about the predator code showed a lot of smart people don't know shit about laser-guided missiles.

It may be easier to teach tech to warriors than it is to make warriors out of techs. YMMV obviously.

Re:Bullshit (4, Insightful)

TheLink (130905) | about 4 years ago | (#33697966)

But running network security? If the emphasis is "warrior" for the job, good luck to them.

Maybe that explains why Gary McKinnon and others managed to hack into so many military computers.

I know enough about cars to know whether my mechanic is bullshitting me or to know when to send my car for servicing. But I'm not good enough at it to do his job well.

Re:Bullshit (1)

TheLink (130905) | about 4 years ago | (#33698046)

Oh an more about the "warrior emphasis".

A fighter would understand, for instance, if an enemy had penetrated the networks and changed coordinates or target times

Sure if you put a warrior in charge, that might be the case. But if you put a tech in charge, the enemy might not even penetrate the critical portions of the networks in the first place.

Furthermore if the enemy has successfully got in, you're screwed for quite a while. If an important military computer system is compromised for "only and hour or two" at a critical moment, even if you don't lose the battle, you could suffer greater losses.

I'm not saying warriors can't understand geeky stuff, after all just look at the NEETS stuff. But if the emphasis or job spec really is "warrior" first, I think that's stupid.

Re:Bullshit (3, Insightful)

poetmatt (793785) | about 4 years ago | (#33697992)

In both situations it becomes the same thing. You have someone familiar with the combat perspective and someone with the tech perspective.

What does it matter which comes first? This is like a chicken and egg argument which doesn't make any sense.

Re:Bullshit (1)

The Mighty Buzzard (878441) | about 4 years ago | (#33698066)

I love me some "warrior" MOS guys but it really, really matters. You want someone coming into the job already possessing the necessary skills, because training a system/network security expert up to competence would take years.

Re:Bullshit (2, Insightful)

poetmatt (793785) | about 4 years ago | (#33698262)

and so would expecting some IT dude to be able to pick up military terminology without previous experience.

it goes both ways.

Re:Bullshit (4, Interesting)

iamhassi (659463) | about 4 years ago | (#33697980)

It is. I'm on /. and I was a tech geek in the military, MOS 74B [ebscohost.com]

I don't think he understands that civilians enlisting for those positions were techies before they joined the military. Just because I can type like the wind and work my way around a linux distro doesn't mean I can't shoot a M16A2 or M4

Re:Bullshit (1)

The Mighty Buzzard (878441) | about 4 years ago | (#33698090)

Right, but think about the length of AIT for someone who's a dead noob but got a good ASVAB score. The skills really need to exist first.

Cause its a lot harder to learn MILSPEAK than (3, Insightful)

crovira (10242) | about 4 years ago | (#33698008)

figuring out what a piece of obscured code actually does when connected to the internet, loading itself into a page making it past a firewall, unpacking itself in RAM, going through all of your cookies and sending those back to an IP address, loading the next snooping segment and going through your mail client, and on and on.

Surely its a lot harder to figure out what that alphabet soup of nonsense abbreviations mean.

Oh wait, you've never seen an assembler dump with all of the nonsense it creates with actual variable names being referred to as the program-base address + offset locations ... Get the idea?

How asinine...

Because obviously a techie could never learn (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33697832)

I mean, we all know techies are basically grunts, right?

Okay... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33697846)

You can't fix network problems with live ammo. These statements make no sense.

Re:Okay... (4, Funny)

PPH (736903) | about 4 years ago | (#33697968)

You can't fix network problems with live ammo.

Oh yeah? Put a couple of rounds into a slow router and see how fast management authorizes the purchase request for new equipment.

why not have some of each? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33697848)

And make them... you know... talk to each other.

Re:why not have some of each? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33697886)

And make them... you know... talk to each other.

Because neither geeks nor grunts are renowned for their communication abilities.

Re:why not have some of each? (1)

Presto Vivace (882157) | about 4 years ago | (#33697896)

next thing you will be asking marketing and technical support to talk to each other.

Re:why not have some of each? (1)

spire3661 (1038968) | about 4 years ago | (#33698002)

Human sacrifice, dogs and cats living together... mass hysteria!

Re:why not have some of each? (1, Insightful)

Idiomatick (976696) | about 4 years ago | (#33698054)

Ahahahhaha. You clearly are not a nerd

Average military 'warrior' back during highschool days:
Brutish, stupid, loud, failing most classes, spends time treating girls like whores so that they get laid and other time harassing nerds to bolster their egos or assert their alpha status infront of women.

Average 'geek' back during highschool:
Reserved, shy, smart, terrible with social situations especially girls, knows more than the teacher in most classes, spends time getting harassed by above group or building/coding/learning/reading fantasy books.

These two groups are not just opposites, they are enemies. And I do realize that these are stereotypes and that not all people fit into these categorizations. But that doesn't matter. If it doesn't work 10% of the time then what is the point. Guarantee that >10% of techie geeks won't be comfortable working with military assholes and it'll be the worst job they ever have or they'll simply quit. The idea that it would work out is hilarious. It'd be like having the military guys work with a gay hairdressing school. Not unless pigs fly.

Both? (5, Insightful)

HalAtWork (926717) | about 4 years ago | (#33697858)

Why can't they be both? I'm sure people are fully capable of understanding tactics as well as programming. The designers of games such as Metal Gear Solid 2 undertook SWAT training to create more realistic AI, and the designers of America's Army clearly had to understand military training and combat situations.

His comment (4, Insightful)

Voulnet (1630793) | about 4 years ago | (#33697864)

His comment is proof enough that he should be nowhere near the controls of this Command Post.

Or Maybe? (4, Insightful)

Comen (321331) | about 4 years ago | (#33697876)

Should it not read "Why Asshole Warriors not Geeks run the world?"

Re:Or Maybe? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33698048)

As a warrior and tech person I agree with the general. People need to understand their enemy 1st, then find ways to stop them. Since a geeks enemy is someone who can have a relationship with a hot girl or guy, then geeks not appl

this is a classical case (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33697878)

management vs hackers

Maybe so but .. (5, Insightful)

AftanGustur (7715) | about 4 years ago | (#33697882)

A techie would understand if the mailserver were suddenly starting to make base 64 encoded TXT DNS requests to a server in Taiwan or if there was an unusual high number of HTTP requests leaving the network that resulted in a 503 or 302 response.

A Techie would understand how to exploit the kerberos ticket system and how to look for signs of, and reduce, such abuse on the network.

A techie would also more likely understand what anomalies could be a sign of a breach and what was more likely a software error.

Re:Maybe so but .. (2, Insightful)

gandhi_2 (1108023) | about 4 years ago | (#33697954)

Or a techie could run the school to teach warriors all about this stuff.

Re:Maybe so but .. (1)

Sir_Lewk (967686) | about 4 years ago | (#33698180)

A techie could preform the mental gymnastics required to figure out it's a hell of a lot easier to hire techies, than it is to hire techies to make techies.

Re:Maybe so but .. (4, Insightful)

l0ungeb0y (442022) | about 4 years ago | (#33697982)

Maybe, but they'd also be more inclined to blame-storming and proving they were right while the shitstorm goes critical. I myself being a techie having dealt with many start-ups, it's clear that most techies have too much ego and lack the discipline to shut the fuck up and work as a truly tight-knit team to meet an objective on a moments notice.

These men aren't mere grunts. They are trained and skilled military men who have demonstrable technical aptitude and skill.
Like many things in the world, it CAN be both things, not just one or the other. So stop pretending these guys aren't as technically qualified as you.

Re:Maybe so but .. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33698128)

He could have worded it better. All he managed to do was piss off both groups. Which is typical of these sorts of fellows (my way or the highway I dont care wtf your opinion is). However, his point is valid. For example if I were building say a truck management system I would hire a couple (not all) truck drivers and dispatchers. Why? They might have a clue what sort of things to put into the system. What sorts of things those people care about.

If we as techs are not grounded into the reality of what we are building, we build crazy rube golbergian systems. That neither meet or exceed expectations. I have seen it time and time again. In this case the guy was 'i am putting combat vets in these positions because they might have a clue as to what is important in our field'.

I may not do 100% like this guy does. I would put a mix in. Then put the ones with the 'tribal knowledge' in charge of making sure the system comes out the other end of being what is needed.

Also the best way to stop blame storming is these words 'well that is all and good however how do we *FIX* what is wrong right now instead of blaming each other'. It sets the tone of 'I dont give a shit who is wrong I want it fixed, oh and now please'. Keep that up for a few months and it is actually contagious much like blame storming can be. You end up with a group who wants to fix things instead of cya...

Re:Maybe so but .. (1)

AftanGustur (7715) | about 4 years ago | (#33698160)

So stop pretending these guys aren't as technically qualified as you.

They aren't as technically qualified as we are and they can never be.

Being a techie means knowing what's "inside" everything technical, and since we're driven by our hearts and desire to know, someone who isn't can never have the insight as we have.

Re:Maybe so but .. (1)

pitchpipe (708843) | about 4 years ago | (#33698010)

A fighter would understand, for instance, if an enemy had penetrated the networks and changed coordinates or target times

Only if the enemy wasn't skilled enough to leave in the correct coordinates and target times, and just slightly change and obfuscate the code to the point where the warrior wouldn't understand that different coordinates or target times were being loaded at the last critical point.

Re:Maybe so but .. (1)

Jeff DeMaagd (2015) | about 4 years ago | (#33698020)

It would seem to me that you need an interdisciplinary approach. Doesn't a platoon have a variety of people with different specializations? Not everyone necessarily has the same gun, there may be over half with the same rifle, but there are people that operate other equipment, maybe you have maybe two people that operate the mortar, someone on the radio and so on. You want people trained to use the equipment in question, and that training should be on what to look for. The examples given don't seem like a problem, it's easy to communicate why you want them to watch coordinates among other tasks.

Re:Maybe so but .. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33698024)

a techie will at least know when our network is owned while i guess "A soldier wouldn't have a clue.". In a increasingly mechanized army this means forget about coordinates but better worry about a nearby drone suddenly aiming primary weapon in your direction.

Re:Maybe so but .. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33698096)

Yes.

And a warrior could pound the average smart-ass geek into the ground and send him running back to his mom's basement.

Now that we've gotten the stereotypes out of the way, obviously you either need a person with some combination of both military and geek skills (a relative rarity -- probably challenging to get enough of them), or you need a team that can work together and benefit from the complementary strengths of the people on the team.

Of course, that doesn't make for inflammatory headlines.

Re:Maybe so but .. (1)

MoogMan (442253) | about 4 years ago | (#33698112)

A non-technical manager of a technical department will never be able to make the type of informed decision that a previously technical manager would be able to.

That's why companies like Google and Amazon are performing and scaling so well - because their IT management structure were geeks too.

Re:Maybe so but .. (1)

willy_me (212994) | about 4 years ago | (#33698232)

All very true, but also irrelevant. The real question is how does one respond to such situations. The techs should be there to monitor for intrusions and offer possible solutions or explanations for what is happening. But they do not decide what is important or how to respond. Those decisions are made by people with military / foreign policy experience.

You're Doing It Wrong? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33697900)

A fighter would understand, for instance, if an enemy had penetrated the networks and changed coordinates or target times, said Dusty Rhoads, a retired Air Force colonel and former F-117 pilot who recruited the original task force members. "A techie wouldn't have a clue," he said.

OK, why is this data not signed to ensure its integrity? Is it altered by enough actors that doing so is not fesable?

Kill Switch / Scuttle (2, Insightful)

wdhowellsr (530924) | about 4 years ago | (#33697934)

The reality is that this is a military operation and there is no such thing as an out of chain command post. The President currently has the ability to shut down the Internet especially if National Security is at risk. That order would have to follow military chain of command and I would prefer a soldier with real-world experience than a cubicle geek. Also the need to immediately respond to a scuttle order that destroys all of your toys would be followed much more quickly by a soldier. I hate to say that I would actually pause for a few seconds trying to save at least some of my hacks and code source, who wouldn't.

Re:Kill Switch / Scuttle (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33698018)

Shut down the internet?

Part of it, maybe. But it's a global network. Literally shutting down the internet means powering down every router and computer worldwide. Maybe he thinks he can, but that would just make him an idiot.

Re:Kill Switch / Scuttle (1, Flamebait)

spire3661 (1038968) | about 4 years ago | (#33698030)

If i was in charge of operating a kill switch waiting for the kill command, there would never be a moment where my data was at risk to be lost. MY entire infrastructure would be built around the premise that it is all lost in one keystroke. NO, i wouldn't pause as a geek, because I would have prepared in advance. In short, you are an idiot and falsely presume that a soldier will take his national security job more seriously then a civilian in the same position and gravity of situation.

Who are the attackers? (2, Insightful)

foniksonik (573572) | about 4 years ago | (#33697938)

If the attackers are warriors trained to infiltrate networks to look for or alter data then by all means use warriors to defend. Otoh if the attackers are geeks trying to disable or subvert the network itself use geeks to defend.

Re:Who are the attackers? (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33697986)

In a number of nations, the geeks and warriors are the same people. Take China for instance. There is a reason why one of the first things that they do after getting a free education at a US school is go into HUMINT/SIGINT plans.

Over there, a hacker who blows up a SCADA system is considered just as cool as someone who manages to nail an enemy sniper at over a mile's distance over here.

Different standard of machismo. Only in the US do we separate the warriors from the hackers. A lot of countries, they are the same people.

Re:Who are the attackers? (2, Interesting)

king neckbeard (1801738) | about 4 years ago | (#33698058)

There are plenty of different skillsets within the groups of 'geeks' and 'warriors.' Teaching elementary basics of tech and combat to everyone may be a good idea, and there may be some special ops that need expertise in both, but properly differentiating between different skillsets is important. You can label a certain category of 'geeks' as 'warriors', but it'd be a stupid differentiation. Why not call medics 'disease warriors' while you're at it?

Wow. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33697950)

Yes. Because implementing effective security measure and recognizing when information shouldn't be changed, regardless of its context, is a skillset only learned in combat, under pressure.

If the management of US 'Cybercom' Command is this short-sighted with regards to its personnel, we deserve every bit chaos and infiltration that ensues.

mod dowN (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33697964)

crap (1)

l3v1 (787564) | about 4 years ago | (#33697994)

"A techie wouldn't have a clue," he said.

If we're really taking on which training and backgrond would be better, then I say a tech training atop a military training might work, but a military training atop a tech training would be much better in such situations. I do not believe the colonels' lines have any real merit in this case. At the least, it's very hard to believe.

They gazed across the Potomac River and saw the lights in the capital city still blazing. They lit their cigars and watched the fireworks shoot across the sky.

Tiger repellent rocks? Anyway, on another note, no offence, but stating that a group has some success (well I'm not talking about the capital city lights) doesn't prove that a "techie" task force wouldn't be better. Sorry, it just doesn't.

That's as it should be (4, Insightful)

Animats (122034) | about 4 years ago | (#33697996)

That's appropriate. Military command training (at least in the US) focuses on making the right decisions under pressure with contradictory information. The big questions are military: who is the enemy? What are they trying to accomplish? What are their capabilities? What else is going on that benefits from this? Is this is a diversion or the main attack?

The military view of this is quite different from the civilian view. In the civilian sector, there's an ongoing stream of minor attacks to be fended off. Most computer security efforts focus on that. The military thinks of that as people throwing rocks over the fence - an annoyance to be dealt with, but not a serious enemy. They're much more worried about the threat that you don't detect until the enemy pulls the trigger on it.

Re:I still think it's really dumb (2)

Omnifarious (11933) | about 4 years ago | (#33698060)

I can understand about military situations being distinctly different from civilian ones. But this seems really dumb. What you want is people who can see patterns in stuff happening that nobody else would notice. You want human intrusion detection.

The most dangerous cyber attacks are very subtle. I think talent and familiarity with the technical details are much more important than the ability to make quick decisions under intense pressure.

The ability to make decisions under a lot of pressure can be an important skill, but spotting things that are subtly off, in my experience, requires intimate familiarity with the environment. A person's technical experience has a much greater correlation with that familiarity than combat experience.

The arrogance and petulance... (4, Insightful)

Silverhammer (13644) | about 4 years ago | (#33698012)

The petulance and deluded self-importance of many replies here are all the proof we need that geeks are not suited to the serious business of war.

Does there have to be a difference? (1)

zbobet2012 (1025836) | about 4 years ago | (#33698022)

Because "warriors" have to be different from geeks? A good portion of the CS guys I know are ex-army. Several of them ex Delta.

Want to know why? The fact we're questioning it! (1)

bsDaemon (87307) | about 4 years ago | (#33698042)

The real reason probably has a lot more to do with the fact that we're even sitting around here on a Saturday afternoon questioning the decision. Geeks tend to think they're smarter than everyone else (just because its usually true, doesn't mean it always is), tend to question authority, and hate to be told what to do. If you give a geek a little bit of authority, they tend to get extremely dictatorial over their small little domain.

How likely is it that "true geeks" would really be able to fit into a military command structure and obey the orders of officers and the President without a million back-talking questions and suggestions about how things "should" be done?

Training people who learn the technical aspects of the job is probably easier than training people who already know (or think they know, more likely) about network security to just shut up, do what their told, and wear the clothes they're supposed to wear. There are plenty of smart people who didn't spend all their childhood fucking around with computers who are more than capable of being taught how to do what we do, and who also haven't yet developed mini god complexes or root syndrome.

I was medically disqualified from service (allegedly i have some mild bit of asthma that makes me barely fail a PFT), and spent my childhood being a geek. Not going to say I like being told what to do or that I don't have root syndrome, but that's why I'm in the group of people not suited to that sort of gig, and that's fine because I don't really want it.

Re:Want to know why? The fact we're questioning it (3, Insightful)

zbobet2012 (1025836) | about 4 years ago | (#33698098)

The real reason probably has a lot more to do with the fact that we're even sitting around here on a Saturday afternoon questioning the decision. Geeks tend to think they're smarter than everyone else (just because its usually true, doesn't mean it always is), tend to question authority, and hate to be told what to do. If you give a geek a little bit of authority, they tend to get extremely dictatorial over their small little domain.

The entire point is that this kind of stero-typing is both counterproductive and flat out stupid. The ability to make decisions under pressure has nothing to do with stuff like that. Many famous generals are noted for there intellectual pursuits. Does that make them "not suited to a chain of authority"? Infact spec-ops guys (say like McChrystal) are notorious for the disrespect for chains of command. Yet they are highly successful warriors.

Errm. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33698068)

We would just debug the system to this point:

"The only winning move is not to play."

Different psychology (4, Insightful)

PPH (736903) | about 4 years ago | (#33698078)

The military doesn't like geek or engineering types. They like veterans because of the training and conditioning they've received in following orders. This isn't just the military. It's common in many corporate settings as well.

Give a problem to a soldier and they'll charge at it until its fixed. If its a machine gun nest, they'll keep charging until they run out of bodies. No questions asked. Give a similar problem to a geek and they'll examine the problem and devise a solution that keeps their ass from getting shot off. And they'll push back if the orders don't make sense.

I have a number of friends who are ex-military (Korea, Vietnam and Gulf War). Some of them are brilliant, having gone on to receive PhDs, members of Mensa, etc. And they'll all sit around and bitch about command fuck-ups, inexperienced lieutenants and the number of friends lost due to errors on the battlefield. But ask them to picture a hypothetical situation where they are given an order about how to accomplish a goal. But the order is poorly conceived and will get themselves and their squad killed. But they have a better and safer way to accomplish the task. What do they do? Inevitably, the ex-military folks get this blank look and respond, "Follow orders".

That's the kind of training the commanders (and the PHBs) want.

Re:Different psychology (5, Insightful)

zbobet2012 (1025836) | about 4 years ago | (#33698140)

Some of them are brilliant

So your entire post contradicts itself in short. Being a warrior, being conditioned to follow orders has nothing to do with whether or not you are good at math and enjoy hard science. There are many, many people who are both. Trying to "sub-divide" it so that you are either a geek or a warrior is really, really stupid.

Re:Different psychology (1)

Gofyerself (1709970) | about 4 years ago | (#33698174)

You are an idiot who has never been there so STFU.

Re:Different psychology (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33698188)

members of Mensa

A retarded monkey could be a member of Mensa. Just sayin'.

Re:Different psychology (5, Insightful)

codepunk (167897) | about 4 years ago | (#33698246)

You are correct, I am a 10 yr combat veteran and your explanation is exactly why I would never work a Govt / Military position again. It is a virtual breeding ground of stupidity something I am very glad to be free of.

The head of the unit.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33698082)

would be Major Stuart Pid?

Warriors are running Cyber Command (1)

airfoobar (1853132) | about 4 years ago | (#33698116)

The warriors are hungry for blood, and they are making up a fake threat of a "cyber war" to keep themselves occupied. Replace them with geeks, and the world will suddenly be safe again.

Re:Warriors are running Cyber Command (1)

Dachannien (617929) | about 4 years ago | (#33698142)

Replace them with geeks, and the world will suddenly be safe again.

It's the same as with nukes: it only works if everyone replaces their warriors with geeks. Otherwise, you get screwed.

Re:Warriors are running Cyber Command (1)

airfoobar (1853132) | about 4 years ago | (#33698178)

make install, not war!

Re:Warriors are running Cyber Command (1)

Gofyerself (1709970) | about 4 years ago | (#33698242)

Uhhhh. It is our CIVILIAN leaders making the threat.

Inflammatory out of context headlines as usual... (5, Interesting)

Dahamma (304068) | about 4 years ago | (#33698150)

What I don't understand in the slightest is why the article or /. responses are making a distinction between "veteran" and "techie"?? A veteran is someone with military training and experience. A "techie" (another stupid vague term) is someone with technical training. It seems obvious to me that the right person for this job is someone who falls into both categories, and given the technology used today in the military, there should be plenty of those.

While the quote from the office was pretty stupid, it was also the only real mention of the term "geek" in the article. His point was he wanted competent technical people who also had military training, not "techie" civilians. And if I go in for laser eye surgery, I'd prefer the experienced ophthamologist perform it, not the guy who built the laser.

Why not both? (1)

youn (1516637) | about 4 years ago | (#33698154)

The thinking seems to be warrior like personalities which will obey orders without thinking while there are Geeks will tend to use logic and are a liability to the chain of command... they may overthink their assignments and end up losing valuable time... if they do the assignment at all... but in my humble opinion it is short sighted to say geeks are not fit for cyber warfare the same way it is short sighted to say non geek profiles can't bring a different positive outcomes to this type of team.

What I think is, like in any team, there needs to be all sorts of various personalities, pluri disciplinary to bring about an all-encompassing thinking war machine that will bring the best results in the best reaction time.

It's hard to argue with that logic (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33698156)

"A fighter would understand, for instance, if an enemy had penetrated the networks and changed coordinates or target times [...] A techie wouldn't have a clue" , said Dusty Rhoads, a retired Air Force colonel and former F-117 pilot. "Those nerds are a threat to our way of life", added Stan Gable, president of the Greek Council and member of the Alpha Beta fraternity.

In case anyone from the "US Cyber Command Post" is reading, I'd like to echo this back to you:

The dead print media explains why carpenters prefer to have experienced wood-workers rather than brain surgeons performing brain surgery. '"It was supposed to be a carpenter unit, not a doctory unit," said task force veteran Json Wheelshoe, who had experience as a carpenter. A carpenter would understand, for instance, how to get to the brain meat, said Cliff Hanger, a retired master craftsmen and former taxi driver who recruited the original task force members. "A surgeon wouldn't have a clue," he said.'"

Works, assuming... (3, Insightful)

Todd Knarr (15451) | about 4 years ago | (#33698186)

It works, assuming that the military commander understands that this is both a military and a technical situation. If he sees something that raises a red flag to a military eye, he needs to call the techies' attention to it and have them determine whether it's something the tech ought to be doing or if it's really a problem (which shouldn't take the techies long). By the same token, though, he also has to listen to the techies and, when they see something that doesn't look like something the tech should be doing, pay attention to them and determine whether there's a military reason it's doing that or if it's really a sign of a problem. And if there's a military reason and the techies say "No! If someone's doing that, it's going to open up holes.", listen to them. They know the tech, just like the military guy knows the military side of things, and you can't/shouldn't dismiss the idea that someone on the military side's just being network-clueless and doing the network equivalent of telling a sentry to not demand identification from any HMVs with a general's star painted on them because a general's coming in for an inspection and you don't want to inconvenience him.

Unlike a lot of the rest of the military, techies work best when they know what the goal is and why you want that goal accomplished, and what the restrictions on methods are and why they're there. We've proven in business time and time again that forcing them to just do whatever non-technical management tells them to do results in systems that utterly fail to do the job they're supposed to be doing (even though they meet every single requirement to perfection). There's a reason for the closing line to the filk: "It's just what we asked for, but not what we want!".

Lincoln was right (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33698230)

This just goes to show, when technical expertise is outlawed in the military only the Chinese military will have technical expertise.

Ironically (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33698244)

There are many different geeky ways to detect whether your network has been penetrated and whether the data or code on it have seen unauthorized changes, even in the unlikely, correctable scenario where the geeks in charge have been no idea what the data and code mean. A geek would know that. An Air Force colonel apparently wouldn't.

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