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Air Force Cyber Command General Answers Slashdot Questions

Roblimo posted more than 6 years ago | from the 30-pushups-and-50-lines-of-code-before-breakfast dept.

The Military 543

Here are the answers to your questions for Major General William T. Lord, who runs the just-getting-off-the ground Air Force Cyber Command. Before you ask: yes, his answers were checked by both PR and security people. Also, please note that this interview is a "first," in that Generals don't typically take questions from random people on forums like Slashdot, and that it is being watched all the way up the chain of command into the Pentagon. Many big-wigs will read what you post here -- and a lot of them are interested in what you say and may even use your suggestions to help set future recruiting and operational policies. A special "thank you" goes to Maj. Gen. Lord for participating in this experiment, along with kudos to the (necessarily anonymous) people who helped us arrange this interview.

How do we prevent "mission creep" (Score:5, Insightful)
by Jeremiah Cornelius (137)


It appears that the military is increasingly involved in areas who's jurisdiction was once considered to be wholly in the civil domain. Use of jargon like "cyberspace" seems only to obfuscate and distract from the core issue. This appears an effort to recruit public opinion and defuse the deeper questions that strike at the heart of a free and civil society. I think that if we had a statement that "The private mails are a warfighting domain" would generate a fair amount of debate on the role of the military as opposed to the police, the function of constitutional protection of liberties, and the question of what actually constitutes a state of war.

What are the limits on this jurisdiction? Who enforces these limits, and how is the public informed of that status? How are efforts to extend being safeguarded from creating mission creep that threatens all civil discourse in the United States and abroad form targeting, suppression, propaganda and extra-legal surveillance?

ANSWER:

A very good question. It's a complex issue, but bottom line is that we won't need new laws to be able to fly and fight in cyberspace. The DoD's role in protecting cyberspace is governed by domestic and international law to the same extent as its activities in other domains. Other U.S. agencies, such as the Department of Justice and the FBI, have important and, in many cases, leading roles to play.

Attacks on the US and its Allies by China (Score:5, Interesting)
by Yahma (1004476)


There have been several recent news reports that China has and is engaging in a nationally funded effort to hack into and attack US government computer systems. The German government recently announced that they traced recent aggressive cyber-attacks back to the Chinese government. What, if anything, is being done against this type of cyber-terrorism against us and our allies? Why do we still confer most-favored nation trading status onto a Nation who is actively engaged in efforts to spy on and attacak our government and corporate computer systems?

ANSWER:

Yes, there are lots of news reports on that, but I'm sure you can appreciate the fact that there are other branches of the U.S. government that must answer your foreign policy questions. I can tell you that securing cyberspace is difficult and requires a coordinated and focused effort from our entire society - federal government, state and local governments, the private sector and the American people. The Air Force is working to improve our ability to respond to cyber attacks, reduce the potential damage from such events, and to reduce our vulnerability to such attacks.

Accept, Retain, Solicit good people? (Score:5, Interesting)
by Lally Singh (3427)


General,

Some of the most talented people in computer security tend to have the sort of records that prevent them from getting clearance. Maybe nothing heavily criminal, but enough of a colored background that traditional security clearance mechanisms would throw them out of the room before they get started. Often the same types of minds that are really good at computer security are also the rebel types, who'll have some history. Will you work to get these people in, or are we looking at a bunch of off-the-shelf programmers/admins who've taken a few simple courses in computer security?

Also, how do you plan to attract/retain them? Again, rebel types are some of the best hackers, and they're not likely to go in without incentives. Not due to any lack of patriotism per se, but an unexplored understanding of it. More importantly, they're likely to be anti-establishment types who aren't comfortable in the strict traditional chain of command. Finally, usually the outside industry pays quite well for the good ones. Are you prepared to financially compete for the best?

Finally, will there be any connections back to the research/academic community? You may find academics more happy to help than usual, as cyber warfare can often be nonviolent. Also, will the existing (and immense) capability within the NSA be properly leveraged?

ANSWER:

I believe even the most unlikely candidate, when working for a cause bigger than himself, turns out to be a most loyal ally. Young men and women come into the military for any number of reasons - education, health care, etc. - but end up staying because they believe what they're doing matters. We know money doesn't create loyalty--a sense of purpose does. We'll take what they have to offer, and in turn they might be surprised by what they get back. It's not just our military members either, it's all those who partner with us . . . academia and private industry, our civilians and contractors, too. In the cyber command, there is a purpose and sense of urgency to be ready. You can bet that we leverage all the expertise out there to help us do our job.

Older recruits? (Score:5, Interesting)
by rolfwind (528248)


It seems that in the military traditionally it was always looking for people fresh out of highschool for EMs and if you wanted to get anywhere in the military you had to be either college educated or, to really have a high end military career, start really young in something like the Valley Forge Military Academy and work from there.

In a traditional branch of the army/navy/airforce that is probably as it should be.

But in this area people have to be trained for years, still not know as much as the older hands in the private industry, and before they really know enough their enlistment would be over. Also, it would be unacceptable for an older IT person to join but take a pay cut to a Private's level or perhaps even a Lieutenant's -- so I imagine this branch would have to be somewhat different.

Is the military going to do to reach out toward the older folks who have extensive experience and knowledge outside the military?

ANSWER:

As I work alongside today's Airmen, many with very specialized skill sets in great demand outside the Air Force, I find them to be incredibly well trained and up-to-speed on current technologies. We bring them in from a general practitioner level and take them to expert level in reasonable time ... and well before retirement age indeed! We train them with specific technical skills as well as overarching abilities required to lead in today's environment. You're right in that we couldn't compete in the cyber world without the experts in the civilian industries who give us the technology in the first place, provide the architectures we use, and even the software we need. People don't have to enlist or take a pay cut to help us out. Certain skill sets can also be brought on board as civilians or contractors, and in many cases we do offer compensation competitive with the commercial sector.

Which acts of war should be illegal in cyberspace? (Score:5, Interesting)
by cohomology (111648)


War is never clean.

In conventional warfare, certain actions such as hiding among civilian populations are forbidden. These actions are considered war crimes because of the collateral damage they are likely to cause. What actions in cyberspace do you think should be outlawed? How about intentionally bringing down hospital IT systems, or destroying undersea cables without regard to the effects on civilian populations?

ANSWER:

The U.S. military complies with all applicable domestic and international laws, and that will certainly apply equally within cyberspace. The Law of Armed Conflict, for example, arose from a desire among civilized nations to prevent unnecessary suffering and minimize unintended destruction while still waging an effective war. It would be possible, as you mentioned in your scenario, that some who ignore the laws of civilized nations could conduct operations in cyberspace that may have unlawful negative consequences on civilian populations. For us, abiding by these laws, being good at we what do and maintaining a technological advantage over our adversaries provides us a first line of defense. Those who commit unlawful acts would certainly face potential criminal liability for war crimes.

Physical Fitness (Score:5, Interesting)
by spacerog (692065)


General, You were recently quoted in Wired as having said "So if they can't run three miles with a pack on their backs but they can shut down a SCADA system, we need to have a culture where they fit in." Is this an accurate quote? As a former member of the US Army I must say that passing a PT test is not very difficult and the suggestion that some soldiers should be exempt from basic minimum requirements is rather upsetting. Are you actually advocating the relaxation of military physical fitness standards for 'cyber warriors'? Would this not create a double standard and animosity between the cyber command and other sections of the military? Surely there must be other recruitment incentives that can be applied to attract the talent you need.

ANSWER:

I don't disagree with you . . . and I am not advocating changing our PT test. What I am saying is that we, as a military culture, need to look beyond what we've traditionally recruited. The very nature of our military requires that we be able to work in combat conditions and be able to establish and protect our cyber/communications structures and networks in remote, even austere conditions. As anyone who has worked in these austere locations will tell you, being fit is critical to mission success, so I don't foresee or advocate for a relaxation of standards just to bring in this specific type of talent. But, as we know, some of what we do in cyber can be done at home station as well, so what will our force look like in the future? This is something we need to look at and evaluate as we progress in this area.

It is good war is so terrible... (Score:5, Insightful)
by MozeeToby (1163751)

A wise man once said "It is good that war is so terrible, lest we grow too fond of it". If cyberwarfare ever becomes a reality, how do we respond to the fact that is isn't "terrible"?

The direct damage from such warfare would be primarily economic or data security related (rather than a cost in human lives) how do you feel we can prevent it from becoming a monthly, yearly, or daily occurance?

ANSWER:

The fact is we are dealing with this on a daily basis and it won't be going away anytime soon. Not for any of us. The way to shield ourselves from these attacks is to be at the forefront of technology, tactics and procedures relating to operating in cyberspace. We have systems and software that are protected by multiple layers of security and functional redundancy. We train our people to be on the cutting edge of this technology, and we find ways secure our information. We have to take this very seriously because we rely on our networks to conduct military operations all around the world. The person who hates war the most is the warrior who has to go to it ... we want to prevent that.

Criminal vs Warlike Actions (Score:5, Interesting)
by florescent_beige (608235
)

General Lord,

Does the AFCC have a mandate to pursue criminals that use information infrastructure to commit crimes, or is your group intended to defend against warlike attacks only?

If the latter is true, how would you distinguish between criminal activity and warlike activity in cyberspace?

ANSWER:

The speed and anonymity of cyber attacks makes it very hard to distinguish what actions would be those of terrorists, criminals, nation states or just some lone prankster. Our command coordinates with government partners such as the DoD's Cyber Crime Center staff, who work with law enforcement officials to investigate and prosecute criminal acts if necessary. A "war-like activity" can also include presenting misleading information to our battlefield commanders. So, we've got to be spot on about authenticating the trusted source of that information in the first place. But, generally speaking, if something is a coordinated attack that would cause disruption or an attack that required a high level of technical sophistication to carry out, that would cause us to take a closer look and recommend a proper response.

Legal Hacking... (Score:5, Funny)
by JeanBaptiste (537955)


Just post a list of the stuff you want hacked and the more patriotic hackers will enjoy doing it for free.

Due to the nature of hacking and what many people do to acquire such skills, they may not want to 'join up' and all that.

But if you post a list of IP's that are okay to bring down, and networks you want information stolen from, with the understanding that the US will not condemn any attacks, and I'm sure more than enough people would do it for free.

Is there anything like this already in place? Cause I got nothing better to do this weekend. Or most any weekend.

ANSWER:

YGTBKM! LOL! I like your enthusiasm, but you know the Air Force neither encourages nor condones criminal activity.

Could a Cyber Attack Trigger a Real War? (Score:5, Interesting)
by florescent_beige (608235)


General Lord,

I'm curious to know if you have have any criteria that would enable you do decide when a cyber attack is an act of war. Would it be possible for some kind of action inside a network to lead to a shooting war without some kind of overt physical threat occurring first?

ANSWER:

Within the Department of Defense, we are careful not to speculate about what would be considered an act of war. Our nation's elected officials are the ones who will decide what threats to, or actions against our national security will constitute an act of war against the United States. These same leaders will likewise determine what an appropriate response would be, and that could be diplomatic, economic or involve the military to demonstrate the nation's resolve. That's why it's my responsibility to oversee the building of a command that will provide our leaders, through the appropriate chain of command, with many options with which to deter threats in the first place or respond when necessary.

Why was the Air Force tasked with this? (Score:5, Interesting)
by Isaac-Lew (623)


Why should the US Air Force be tasked with this, instead of DISA or NSA, neither of which is tied to a specific branch of the military?

ANSWER:

Don't confuse the fact that we are standing up the Air Force Cyber Command to mean we are the lead for the nation, or the primary command to respond to a particular incident. We are just one part of a combined effort. Our first priority is to work with DoD to defend AF military resources, but many of those resources rely on civilian entities, so we obviously have a keen interest in protecting those items as well. We thought it was the right thing to do to consolidate our efforts and to align all the Air Force cyber-related resources so we can have better command and control. This command will be able to respond better to the needs of our commanders and be the focal point within the Air Force for cyber security and defense missions, as well as respond to emergencies and natural disasters. Make no mistake, we are partners with the other sister services--the Army, Marines, Navy--as well as with DISA, NSA and Homeland Security to name a few. We're all in this together.

Question about Existing Contractors (Score:5, Interesting)
by tachyon13 (963336)


General Lord, I currently work as the exact type of 'cyber warrior' you intend to recruit. But I already have a Top Secret clearance, already familiar with DoD systems, etc. The dynamic with what we call 'Information Assurance' is that of a constant struggle with our contractor management (stay within the contract, the budget, etc) and with our 'warfighter' higher ups (educating them on why they can't have full access from their home in the spirit of "operations are a priority, to hell with security"). So assuming you can get the type of expertise that are eligible for clearances, and that are willing to relocate to Offutt/etc, how are you going to address the core issue of security in the DoD: Operations/budget/schedule will always trump security. Or alternatively, security will always be back burner to 'hot' issues. Thank you for your time.

ANSWER:

Certainly the balance between having access to do our mission and having robust security is an issue where not everyone agrees on just how much to restrict or how much to allow. The Air Force takes the security of its computer networks very seriously and has taken several measures to educate our users and to provide secure means for them to operate. As with many other issues, the Air Force through its commanders, must assess the risks and make a decision. I don't agree or I maybe I just haven't seen where security is always a back burner item.

CyberCommand Location (Score:5, Interesting)
by Mz6 (741941)


General,

Can you explain some about the situation developing between Barksdale AFB and Offutt AFB as they try to fight over the eventual final location for CyberCommand? My thoughts are that finding and recruiting talent, and laying the foundation for such a large wired infrastructure in the Omaha, Nebraska area may be easier to accomplish than in and around Shreveport, LA. What types of things is the DoD looking for when they choose the final location for this new Command?

ANSWER:

The government actually has a regulation that covers the whole process for choosing a location for a command and it's a very defined, thorough process. The bases must meet certain criteria -- existing infrastructure would be just one aspect of many items along with communications or square footage requirements, but there are other considerations, such as the impact to the environment that the Pentagon will consider. I would hope that no matter where it was located, we would still be able to attract the talent needed to work in this exciting command and that all communities see the need to protect this domain.

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Did anyone ask about genocide? (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22728716)

How do we kill a maximum number of Mudslums with a minimum expenditure of American lives, and more importantly money?

Dear generals (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22728718)

First post.

Re:Dear generals (1, Funny)

Brian Gordon (987471) | more than 6 years ago | (#22728992)

Many big-wigs will read what you post here
Cue tom cruise missile jokes and aqua teen advertising.

The questions are interesting... (5, Insightful)

swm (171547) | more than 6 years ago | (#22728724)

and the answers are content-free.

Oh, well. At least they tried.

Re:The questions are interesting... (3, Insightful)

religious freak (1005821) | more than 6 years ago | (#22728806)

I agree. There's not much here to actually inform someone. Basic PR. I guess it was worth a shot. Maybe they'll get a little more latitude in the future, if this is tried again.

Re:The questions are interesting... (2, Insightful)

esocid (946821) | more than 6 years ago | (#22728832)

Quite true. I'm not sure I would really classify these as true answers rather than a vague press release-esque style maybe meant to show some sort of transparency to /.ers. Although I didn't expect much from a military man.

Re:The questions are interesting... (5, Insightful)

thrillseeker (518224) | more than 6 years ago | (#22729142)

Although I didn't expect much from a military man.

That's ok - he'll still put his life on the line to protect your right to continue to whine.

Re:The questions are interesting... (4, Funny)

Captain Splendid (673276) | more than 6 years ago | (#22729244)

That's ok - he'll still put his life on the line to protect your right to continue to whine.

LOL, he's a general. What, he's going to get gangrene due to a splinter from his desk?

Re:The questions are interesting... (4, Insightful)

Thansal (999464) | more than 6 years ago | (#22729318)

no one comments yet on a General's usage of "YGTBKM! LOL!"?

Yes, most of the comments were relatively content free, but a few of them had some interesting tidbits. I mean, I didn't expect him to say "Well, here are our plans, and here are full in depth discussions on some rather sensitive topics". From the position he was coming from, I appreciate that amount he DID say. I think he took the questions seriously and provided those answers he could.

Re:The questions are interesting... (2, Interesting)

DerekLyons (302214) | more than 6 years ago | (#22728898)

Not content free at all - merely phrased in military speak and bureaucrat speak and quite informative. I really don't know what you expected.

Re:The questions are interesting... (3, Insightful)

Captain Splendid (673276) | more than 6 years ago | (#22729008)

quite informative

So tell me, what did you learn, other than the good general is well practiced in PR-fu?

Re:The questions are interesting... (1, Insightful)

Jeremiah Cornelius (137) | more than 6 years ago | (#22729222)

Many big-wigs will read what you post here -- and a lot of them are interested in what you say and may even use your suggestions to help set future recruiting and operational policies.

You are now on our watch-list, "citizen".

Re:The questions are interesting... (5, Informative)

truthsearch (249536) | more than 6 years ago | (#22729260)

I learned:

- that they don't believe they need new laws to "fight" in cyberspace.
- "People don't have to enlist or take a pay cut to help us out."
- "Within the Department of Defense, we are careful not to speculate about what would be considered an act of war."

Re:The questions are interesting... (1)

orclevegam (940336) | more than 6 years ago | (#22729212)

Geeks tend to favor blunt straight answers. Part of the reason we usually hate management. Would have been nice to see some simple (to understand, not necessarily simple in thought) answers to the questions.

Well what did you expect? (5, Funny)

wsanders (114993) | more than 6 years ago | (#22728908)

Q: Please g3ve u5 r00t to m133ile l3nche5!
A; No.

Q; You suxx0r!
A; I love my job! { must ... control ... fist .. of .. death ...]

Re:The questions are interesting... (4, Insightful)

timholman (71886) | more than 6 years ago | (#22728932)

and the answers are content-free.

Did anyone seriously expect anything else?

We live in an age where the press routinely goes over every single word spoken by celebrities, politicians, and public figures, and tries to make a scandal out of any off-hand comment that can be construed to embarrass the speaker.

Any officer who has not learned to cover his ass and keep his mouth shut will have a short career in today's military.

Re:The questions are interesting... (0, Flamebait)

legoman666 (1098377) | more than 6 years ago | (#22729168)

My sentiments exactly. Most Q&A's on /. are 99% content free.

agreed. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22728938)

the only thing not completely devoid of information was the bit were they proved that someone somewhere in the chain of PR-guys and security-checks knew some aol-acronyms. apart from that: zero content, thanks for wasting my time.
If so many checks are needed, no content survives - if the general even started with it is another question altogether though.

AGREED (5, Interesting)

rutledjw (447990) | more than 6 years ago | (#22728966)

But I think your second point is most important - they tried. Assuming (hoping?) they really are reading feedback we can hope they will adjust their filters accordingly. being vague on questions such as roles and responsibilities between government agencies will only create a general sense on unease in the general population.

Furthermore, we should remember as a group of large agencies, there's bound to be politicking and may not be the level or coordination desired. Of some of this vague area may reflect reality, they don't really know where lines actually exist...

Re:AGREED (3, Insightful)

kanwisch (202654) | more than 6 years ago | (#22729080)

I'm in the encouraged realm. I learned something that I did not already know and some of his replies (like the PT item) provide an interesting understanding of the degree of change that leadership in that organization is considering.

Re:The questions are interesting... (1)

masdog (794316) | more than 6 years ago | (#22729006)

You have to remember that these answers have been sanitized by security and PR types at the Pentagon. I'm sure the General wanted to say "No, we won't make the cyber command do PT unless they want to," but I'm certain the military wouldn't allow that.

Re:The questions are interesting... (3, Insightful)

Brian Gordon (987471) | more than 6 years ago | (#22729106)

Oh yeah, no way they'll make a bunch of hackers do PT.. it might be easy for the guy who asked that question, but it's just unrealistic to expect "cyber warriors" to get a job that requires physical exercise when they can get a less life-intrusive job for similar pay. But the questioner was also right- the exception would affect morale among the rest of them and cause resentment. So the easy solution is just to lie, which is I guess what the general's doing. The air force is a big place, nobody's going to know the kids downstairs haven't been doing their pushups.

Re:The questions are interesting... (1)

geekoid (135745) | more than 6 years ago | (#22729018)

Read them again, this time try to think.

Also, some of these questions where not interesting, I mean really.

Re:The questions are interesting... (3, Insightful)

Jeremiah Cornelius (137) | more than 6 years ago | (#22729026)

Content free?

I'm in the Big Brother database, now...

Re:The questions are interesting... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22729076)

I don't think the General even read the questions. The answers to this are fucking insulting. It's BS like this that ensures I will never join the military for anything, they have no respect for us.

Re:The questions are interesting... (1)

mooingyak (720677) | more than 6 years ago | (#22729108)

Agreed. I just tagged it 'misleadingheadline'

Re:The questions are interesting... (3, Interesting)

Telvin_3d (855514) | more than 6 years ago | (#22729112)

Actually, I was impressed with the quality of the answers. They seem to be well thought out and illuminate the intentions of the program if not the specifics. The only questions that eh really sidesteps on are ones related to policy and that is how it should be. Members of the armed forces should not be setting policy.

Honestly I'm Surprised This One Made It By... (1)

JordanL (886154) | more than 6 years ago | (#22729266)

...if for no other reason than the screeners would think that it wouldn't reflect well.

YGTBKM! LOL! I like your enthusiasm, but you know the Air Force neither encourages nor condones criminal activity.
I think the USAF let the General speak as he wished quite a bit more than some other orgs we've done QA's with.

Obligatory (5, Funny)

linux pickle (974544) | more than 6 years ago | (#22728734)

I, for one, welcome our William T. Lord overlord.

Re:Obligatory (0, Offtopic)

gh0stee (1078527) | more than 6 years ago | (#22728876)

Damnit, I was gonna post that! Oh well, I welcome our new overlord aswell.

Re:Obligatory (2, Funny)

What me a Coward (875774) | more than 6 years ago | (#22729110)

Hrm!

    I for one welcome our New Cyber overlords! :D

    Or it could be our new cyberlord overlords!

    Either works!

No one asked... (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22728736)

Do you play global thermonuclear war?

LOL

Re:No one asked... (2, Funny)

PrescriptionWarning (932687) | more than 6 years ago | (#22729002)

not a very fun game, as the only way to win is not to play.

how about a nice game of chess? no wait i suck at chess...

how about a nice game of paper-rock-scissors?

Suggestions (0, Flamebait)

qoncept (599709) | more than 6 years ago | (#22728738)

and may even use your suggestions to help set future recruiting and operational policies

Using people's suggestions is not the Air Force way. Though, in this instance, they can't rebut with the normal "Deal with it, you're in the military."

Re:Suggestions (4, Informative)

ArcherB (796902) | more than 6 years ago | (#22728914)

Using people's suggestions is not the Air Force way. Though, in this instance, they can't rebut with the normal "Deal with it, you're in the military."
Actually, the Air Force, or "Chair Force" as we in the Army liked to call it, was the most "civilian" military branch.

We in the Army had Billets (dorm like rooms). Air Force personnel had what looked like apartments.

Our Billets were subject to inspection at any time, 24/7. Air Force living quarters were more of less off limits to their NCO's and officers.

We worked from 7:00am to whenever we were done, weekends were worked about 50% of the time. Air Force personnel worked from 9:00 to 5:00, with weekends off.

When we went to the field, we slept on our tanks. Air Forcer personnel stayed in air conditioned tents or hotels(!!!).

It seemed to me that those in the Chair Force had jobs. We were in the military.

Of course, this is all from my personal experience. There are some more lax army positions that the one I had and I'm sure that there are some hard-core Air Force jobs, but on average, the Air Force people had it so much better than we did.

Re:Suggestions (4, Funny)

qoncept (599709) | more than 6 years ago | (#22729094)

I just got out of the Air Force after six years. I'm not making things up -- that was the response to suggestions that there were no better arguments against. Perfect example: the hot water in the dorms was brown (not tinted -- BROWN) for years. "We had it tested. It's safe." Um.. IT'S FUCKING BROWN! I sat at a computer 8 hours a day. Sometimes 6 if no one was looking. I lived in an air conditioned tent for 4 months. I lived in a closet, where I had the ability arranged my furniture only because I had played Tetris and I ate garbage served by the laziest, dumbest people I've ever met in my life for 3 years. The Air Force sucks, and I'm sure you're right -- the Army was worse.

Well Done!! (2)

arizwebfoot (1228544) | more than 6 years ago | (#22728750)

Both good questions and good answers.

Bravo to both and Kudos to Gen. Lord.

Right General? (5, Funny)

esocid (946821) | more than 6 years ago | (#22728758)

YGTBKM! LOL! I like your enthusiasm, but you know the Air Force neither encourages nor condones criminal activity.
Are you sure this is a general and not some 14 year old girl?

Re:Right General? (5, Interesting)

PatrickThomson (712694) | more than 6 years ago | (#22728854)

Actually, my first response when I read that line was "His PR team are trying to look hip." Like when you see TV ads that try to use street jargon, and miss the mark. Of course, I'm probably being a bit harsh, the truth will be somewhere between the two.

Re:Right General? (2, Insightful)

religious freak (1005821) | more than 6 years ago | (#22729010)

Yeah, I agree. This would be good PR on myspace or facebook. But /. is slightly different. I'm surprised some PR people wouldn't know that.

The cute little acronyms aren't used much here. We're hard core geeks. No big deal though -- at least they're trying.

Re:Right General? (1)

Oxy the moron (770724) | more than 6 years ago | (#22728862)

Not having "A/S/L?" does add some credibility to the statement... though not much... :)

Re:Right General? (5, Insightful)

timster (32400) | more than 6 years ago | (#22728946)

Honestly, I kind of felt like the response was a subtle jab at how silly and stupid the question was.

Re:Right General? (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22729036)

Yeah, that or he's trying to identify with the audience. It's the thought that counts.

Re:Right General? (1)

B3ryllium (571199) | more than 6 years ago | (#22729204)

That's exactly what I thought, too :)

Re:Right General? (1)

qortra (591818) | more than 6 years ago | (#22729320)

how silly and stupid the question was.
Are you claiming that the question is silly and stupid, or claiming that General Lord believes the question to be silly and stupid, or both?

I guess that I don't think the question is either silly or stupid. In other instances, the US condones actions carried out on the part of citizens in the interest of justice that would otherwise be illegal. For instance, bounty hunting. Or a citizens' arrest. Detaining people and hauling them to jail is usually illegal, but in these instances, exceptions are made. Why not make such allowances explicit for known targets on the internet? Maybe it should be required first that once obtains a license to do so - however, the general idea posed by the question is still valid.

In his defense. (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22728952)

While uncharacteristic of a general, he was responding to a ridiculous question moderated as "funny".

I welcome a personality from a department not known for it's sense of humor.

Re:Right General? (1)

avanderveen (899407) | more than 6 years ago | (#22728990)

Yes, suddenly he's a 14 year-old girl for using an acronym. He's likely trying to appeal to the audience here, or maybe just get a laugh. Either way, it shouldn't be assumed that he's immature based on his use of an acronym.

Re:Right General? (1)

milamber3 (173273) | more than 6 years ago | (#22729090)

That was my first reaction as well, until I read the urban dictionary definition for YGTBKM and it noted that it's a popular term with the military. At least the navy, anyway. Then I decided it was probably his honest response to that question. Sorta like my first though was, "no f'in way he's going to post a list of no holds barred computer systems."

Re:Right General? (1)

starglider29a (719559) | more than 6 years ago | (#22729274)

Of course, if such a list DID end up on a haX0rz site, the AF would have plausible deniability. Did any of you 1337's see such a list crop up since then? No? Well, maybe we could make our own. If they can't tell us such things, they can't say that those IPs and servers on NOT on their "wish list".

General Lord just couldn't say anything. He had COOS (Commanding Officer Over Shoulder)

W/E

Re:Right General? (2, Insightful)

legoman666 (1098377) | more than 6 years ago | (#22729144)

Yea no kidding. I actually had to google "YGTBKM" to see what it meant.

Re:Right General? (3, Funny)

Valiss (463641) | more than 6 years ago | (#22729256)

YGTBKM! LOL! I like your enthusiasm, but you know the Air Force neither encourages nor condones criminal activity.

Are you sure this is a general and not some 14 year old girl?


I'm just amazed I was able to figure it out so quickly. Amazed and disappointed.

As A Retired USAF Senior NCO All I Can Say Is (3, Funny)

aquatone282 (905179) | more than 6 years ago | (#22728772)

WTF?

Re:As A Retired USAF Senior NCO All I Can Say Is (5, Funny)

RobertB-DC (622190) | more than 6 years ago | (#22729182)

WTF?

Don't you mean, "Whiskey Tango Foxtrot"?

random people on forums like Slashdot ? (-1, Troll)

unity100 (970058) | more than 6 years ago | (#22728774)

there are many people here in slashdot who are 'bigger wigs' in civil life than most generals in any armed force can ever attain a comparable rank in military.

Re:random people on forums like Slashdot ? (1)

geekoid (135745) | more than 6 years ago | (#22729048)

haha, really? I doubt that. Maybe you have a different notion of what a ig wig is.

Also, pretty much any general can walk into a top position, if not THE top position, of most companies.

Re:random people on forums like Slashdot ? (1)

religious freak (1005821) | more than 6 years ago | (#22729052)

You think we're bigger than generals? I think we're just a bunch of low level geeks. Yeah... talented for sure, but not at the level of a general.

Re:random people on forums like Slashdot ? (1)

Monkeyman334 (205694) | more than 6 years ago | (#22729162)

Yeah, I don't see why people are so condescending to the Slashdot audience. We should put together a report on how many "bigger wigs" post to Slashdot. Then, we should use those numbers to predict the number of "bigger wigs" vs "joe schmoes" that an interviewee can expect on one day. That way, we can say "it's unusual for a General to answer questions from 1 'big wig,' 3 professionals, 5 blue collar workers, and 1 Goatse troll."

Actually, that sounds like a lot of work. If only there was some word that wasn't derogatory that meant "not sure" who may ask questions, or "unable to predict" who may ask questions. Better get your thesaurus, I'm stumped.

Consider me impressed. (4, Insightful)

InfinityWpi (175421) | more than 6 years ago | (#22728780)

Some of those answers are obviously 'cleaned up' and somewhat evasive... but some are actually quite nice, and the man actually used 'text speak' in an answer... I'd say the questions and answers came across rather well, given that they had to be combed over. I'd love to hear more candid, off-the-cuff answers but I know that's not really an option when dealing with something of this nature.

Re:Consider me impressed. (3, Funny)

Foobar of Borg (690622) | more than 6 years ago | (#22728836)

I'd love to hear more candid, off-the-cuff answers but I know that's not really an option when dealing with something of this nature.
Well, he could always try channelling Patton:


"No bastard ever won a cyber-war by getting hacked for his country. He won it by making the other dumb bastard get hacked for his country!"

Security clearence dodged... too bad (5, Interesting)

ajs (35943) | more than 6 years ago | (#22728802)

The security clearance question was dodged. That's too bad. I would love to work for such an organization, and might even have signed up with the Air Force if I thought I could make it into that group when I was younger. However, I know that for silly reasons that have to do more with red tape than any actual wrong-doing on my part, a security clearance is out of the question. If he'd given people some hope that the typical rules regarding security clearances would be relaxed in favor of a more "are you a potential threat" based analysis, he might have won some hearts and minds.

Re:Security clearence dodged... too bad (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22728888)

Honeslty, I couldn't see the reason why anyone would need anything higher than a secret clearance to do this type of work. Thankfully, secret clearances are easy to come by with just a short background check. The key is to simply be honest.

Re:Security clearence dodged... too bad (5, Informative)

juuri (7678) | more than 6 years ago | (#22728956)

A security clearance of Secret is much easier to obtain than many expect. Top Secret can also be obtained somewhat easily, even given a set of questionable actions in the past, based on good interviews with people from your sphere of influence. Special allowance cases are made all the time for either. Many people assume (wrongly) that a past arrest or drug use immediately rule out either. The important parts here are complete honesty, showing a changed "nature" if needed and that your versions of past events match up with other witnesses.

Re:Security clearence dodged... too bad (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22728994)

Clearances are handled by the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) across the board, for every government organization including the air force. Like the patent office, they are understaffed and underbudgeted, and are sometimes woefully problematic in the down-stream affects that they cause.

The question was a good one: what sort of motivation are people going to have when senior management is just senior because of their years of service rather than any sort of technical competance? Meaning, a contractor with 20 years of experience (with probably lots of specialized domain knowledge and buddy-buddy with the contract givers) will most likely be making a lot more money and have 10 times the prestige than the junior level, 3 years out of college hip web-2.0 hacker that is making the cyber command actually work well. It is a problem with the culture; defense contractors and their military counterparts are not a merit based system, so they will never attract people that are motivated to get the job done. They will only attract people that have to work 'good enough' to just move up the chain, never the top performers and often the bottom feeders which cause these 2 week projects to become 2 year money sinks.

What is needed is some sort of meritocracy in these organizations, rewarding the people who perform and holding back the people that coast.

Re:Security clearence dodged... too bad (1)

KlomDark (6370) | more than 6 years ago | (#22729268)

"are sometimes woefully problematic in the down-stream affects that they cause"

That should really be 'effects' rather than 'affects' - See http://xkcd.com/326/ [xkcd.com]

Re:Security clearence dodged... too bad (1)

Mongoose Disciple (722373) | more than 6 years ago | (#22729016)

While I agree with you that a lot of the best people for a job like this will have somewhat dirty pasts, I can also see the serious cultural/bureaucratic struggle it would be to get higher-ups/lawmakers to agree and make the necessarsy changes.

It's clear from other answers that the General is aware that many traits traditionally valued in soldiers are, if not unwelcome, at least a lower priority for this position. I'd assume that what's within his power is relaxed, but everything may not be.

Re:Security clearence dodged... too bad (1)

AJWM (19027) | more than 6 years ago | (#22729200)

If a certain person has a unique combination of skills and talents that the government really needs, they'll find a way to grant clearance. Frankly, though, people in such a position are rare. (But even a criminal record doesn't necessarily preclude a clearance. It depends in part on what's on your record and what the clearance is for.)

The most famous such example is probably Von Braun and his team of German rocket scientists.

Answer #5 about hacking sites (5, Funny)

The Fun Guy (21791) | more than 6 years ago | (#22728838)

YGTBKM! LOL! I like your enthusiasm, but you know the Air Force neither encourages nor condones criminal activity.

p.s. and we know where you live.

p.p.s. and we told the FBI, DHS and your state and local PD where you live.

p.p.p.s. and we all have guns.

Re:Answer #5 about hacking sites (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22729060)

p.p.p.p.s. We don't know anything about that list of IP addresses that landed in your inbox.

Re:Answer #5 about hacking sites (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22729068)

More likely a list of IP addresses actually will appear in the dude's inbox.

"Cyber Command"? What time is it on Disney? (5, Funny)

xxxJonBoyxxx (565205) | more than 6 years ago | (#22728850)

"Cyber Command"? What time does that show air on the Disney channel?

Re:"Cyber Command"? What time is it on Disney? (1)

Tibor the Hun (143056) | more than 6 years ago | (#22729104)

Right after the Lawnmower man.

(how's that for an obscure reference? I bet it will get Lost in the discussion though.)

A realer question (1)

Neotrantor (597070) | more than 6 years ago | (#22728928)

How does the military recruit people with higher than an average IQ?

Conspiciously absent question... (-1, Troll)

Entropius (188861) | more than 6 years ago | (#22728962)

"Why should we pay the Air Force, or anyone else, to do this instead of fixing potholes/improving education/doing research/fixing healthcare/reducing taxes?"

"Why does the American taxpayer benefit more from this than from any other use of the money?"

Becasue they are stupid? (2, Insightful)

geekoid (135745) | more than 6 years ago | (#22729098)

He has nothing to do with that. The only thing he could say is it up to elected official to determine financial questions; which would have been a correct answer, but worthless for this interview.

Re:Conspiciously absent question... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22729102)

How is paying anyone going to help reduce taxes? And if you honestly think that these problems can be solved by throwing money at them how do you think taxes will ever be reduced?

You should really think of these things before you ask. You sound like an 8th grade dunderhead or a hippie that doesn't understand how things work in the real world.

Re:Conspiciously absent question... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22729136)

Answer: Because the elected Congress gave them this budget. You (a collective you) voted for it.

Someones Hacking Lord, Kumbya..... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22729270)

you are a limp wristed liberal.

Oh, oh! Answer My Question! (-1, Flamebait)

morari (1080535) | more than 6 years ago | (#22728964)

Why is this propaganda on Slashdot? Has it gone from news site to recruiting agency all of a sudden?

Re:Oh, oh! Answer My Question! (0, Troll)

orclevegam (940336) | more than 6 years ago | (#22729286)

Slashvertisement, now with government investors!

Some things seem beyond the military's ken (2, Interesting)

ThousandStars (556222) | more than 6 years ago | (#22728982)

The way to shield ourselves from these attacks is to be at the forefront of technology, tactics and procedures relating to operating in cyberspace. We have systems and software that are protected by multiple layers of security and functional redundancy. We train our people to be on the cutting edge of this technology, and we find ways secure our information.

The issue of Internet security and being on forefront of technology seems to me like it has much more to do with education and intelligence than with the military directly. If you want the country as a whole to be on the forefront of technology, you have to have the highly educated people who create and master said technology. To my mind, this issue becomes more of how we can improve abysmal public schools and the like than what the military can do.

I'm reminded of Foucault, who in Power/Knowledge [stanford.edu] discussed the idea of power in the context of a network or society. The military is embedded in the network of American power, and in the domain of Internet security and the like it seems to rely even more on other parts of the network than it does in other forms of operation like physical combat.

Re:Some things seem beyond the military's ken (2, Insightful)

geekoid (135745) | more than 6 years ago | (#22729164)

That is clearly implied.

"To my mind, this issue becomes more of how we can improve abysmal public schools and the like than what the military can do."
Great, how many PTA meetings have you been to? how much time have you volunteered? Money?
Have you tried to find a way fro them to get more moeny? discussed the issue that the cost of running a school is going up faster then the taxes that go to it? Have you talked to your representative about it? have you looked at different legislators?

Until you have done all that, then you can add to the issue instead of just point and whine about a problem.

Not to mention that question doesn't belong in this interview. If /. gets people running for office to answer some questions, then it will be appropriate.

Legal Hacking (5, Interesting)

mikeee (137160) | more than 6 years ago | (#22728996)

This is actually quite a traditional thing; what we used to call Letters of Marque [wikipedia.org] were issued to pirates to 'legalize' their attacks on the enemy. While these were banned by the 1856 Declaration of Paris, the US is not a signatory to that treaty, and theoretically Congress could issues these permissions (it's a power specifically granted them in the Constitution).

Adding a missing question... (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22729000)

You'll forgive me for posting this anonymously, for obvious reasons. Feel free to take it with a HUGE grain of salt.

In 2004 I was made aware of an effort by the Singaporean Military to hire a Singaporean national with an existing history of submitting code to the Linux kernel (I believe his main are was network card drivers for hardware made by various Asian manufacturers).

Their proposal was that in the middle of the normal patch stream he would slowly inject a very subtle bug that would introduce a remote exploit into the Linux kernel, that they could then keep to themselves for use if needed.

Whether or not this story was entirely true (I have never been able to confirm it, given the sensitivity and not wanting to risk trouble, but my source knew the person they tried to recruit) surely there must be potential risk of similar efforts by governments around the world.

Can you guarantee that you won't attempt to intentionally introduce exploits into Open Source projects in order to create your own private zero day exploits?

No War, even Cyber-war. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22729032)

Pfft, warfare (be it cyber or otherwise) is still warfare. Why must we be in such direct competition with everyone and everything?

Not prepared to back up financially (4, Interesting)

DTemp (1086779) | more than 6 years ago | (#22729038)

The General's answer to the third question ("Accept, Retain, Solicit good people?") clearly shows that his answer to "Usually the outside industry pays quite well for the good ones. Are you prepared to financially compete for the best?" is "No."

So, US Government, please let us know when you're ready to put your money where your mouth is, and we'll subsequently give you the best damn computer security on Planet Earth. Until then, you're just another employer trying to get more than he's paid for out of his staff.

Urgent Message (5, Funny)

florescent_beige (608235) | more than 6 years ago | (#22729040)

From: Joint Chiefs
To: General Lord
Encoding: S00per Seekrit COd3 #5

Ixnay on the LOL-ay, mkay?

big brother (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22729044)

Welcome to the first phase of big brother. Do not think that this is anything other than an announcement that Americans are the biggest threat and that WE are watching you. Do not misunderstand freedom in the US is on life support. Time to stomp on this toadie of Wofflewitz's military and tell him to crawl back under the baseboards until a stand-up solder can take his place. Expect this mealy-mouthed punk to be peeping into your bedroom any day now.

Major General Lord? (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22729058)

My God, how many stars is that?

Re:Major General Lord? (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22729230)

Two less than Admiral Jesus.

Re:Major General Lord? (1)

ccozan (754085) | more than 6 years ago | (#22729326)

i suspect he's been visiting some PvP BGs lately....

Concerning hacking foreign powers (3, Insightful)

jtev (133871) | more than 6 years ago | (#22729096)

If we were to make such an attack, wouldn't that just be doing our duty as part of the unorganised militia of the USA. I mean, since every male from the age of 18-40 is already part of it, wouldn't it be part of doing our part to do war upon the infrastructure of the enemies of our nation, as much as it would be to do war upon invaders?

Re:Concerning hacking foreign powers (2, Interesting)

geekoid (135745) | more than 6 years ago | (#22729216)

That is an excellent question. Assuming you are talking about a country we have declared War on, I would love to hear legal experts discuss
that.

I think just doing it to any country that war hasn't been specifically declared on would be a no-no. So being considered an 'Axis of Evil' won't cut it. Plus it could hurt relations.

So in present day, how do we do this in Iraq? Iraq isn't the enemy, force not backed by the government are.
Touchy.

Do it, don't get officially caught, and be smart might be what it boils down to.

Future vision and legal challenges (4, Insightful)

bbasgen (165297) | more than 6 years ago | (#22729128)


  It is unfortunate that the General did not talk about his vision for the future, as several questions prompted.
Does the Cyber Command have a concrete understanding, and long term projections, of cyber wafare in the future?
For example, could this result in the creation of a new branch of the military, in a similar way as the Army Air
Corps spawned the Air Force? In order to instill confidence in our operations, it is important that we convey an
appropriate vision for the future. The disparity, for example, revealed in one response about distinct cyber
groups across the different branches of the military is counter-intuitive, to say the least! This reveals an operational, as opposed to a strategic role of IT in the military. While that may be correct today, ought we not be working towards a paradigm shift in the future?

  On the issue of internet law, while a politically understandable response, it would have been good to have read a
more realistic grappling with these incredibly difficult problems. It is a fairly routine conception to refer to
the internet as the wild west, and this is a significant reality in terms of effectively addressing defense. In
particular, this contradiction is revealing:

"It's a complex issue, but [the] bottom line is that we won't need new laws to be able to fly and fight in
cyberspace." [....] "Those who commit unlawful acts would certainly face potential criminal liability for war
crimes."

  Effective warfare exploits opportunity, and the lawlessness of the internet has been exploited ad nausea by
criminals and nations the world over. While it is not the role of the military to devise such laws, surely we can
see the strategic importance that it is in our best interest to encourage the establishment of such laws? This should be pretty
obvious: in the same way that a military power is want to fight insurgents/guerrillas, the US Cyber Command
shouldn't tacitly accept a theater that strongly disadvantages what should otherwise be a significant position of
power.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Brian Basgen
Information Security Officer

Some interesting answers! (1)

farrellj (563) | more than 6 years ago | (#22729282)

Security is not a destination, it is a process.

As the questions to the Good General noted, there is always a balancing act between ease of access/use and security. I can see why the he sort of dodged the question, as tell us what they are doing about it would be giving away some operational security!

One good thing about having so many players in the market monitoring security is that when something does happen, we will have corroborating evidence from multiple agencies. And that will make figuring out the source a whole lot easier.

ttyl
          Farrell

Recruiting! (1)

MrJynxx (902913) | more than 6 years ago | (#22729288)

This has got to be the cheapest recruiting campaign yet! Answer questions from slashdot that has a HUGE following of tech people, make them feel like they're needs are being taken of, success!

But I will admit, it's interesting they're answering questions directly from the public in such a huge forum(whether they're American or not).

Who is best, Anakin or Bilbo? (1)

AssTard (684911) | more than 6 years ago | (#22729328)

I want to know, if you could be pals with either one, would you choose Anakin Star Wars, or Bilbo Baggins? The Anakin has the force, but Bilbo has the Ring, which is powerful. I don't know if I'd want to hunch over a lot to visit a Hobbit's house LOL! Anakin I think would be best. Thank you.

Can some say how much TPS report type stuff will.. (1)

Joe The Dragon (967727) | more than 6 years ago | (#22729332)

Can some say how much TPS report type stuff will be in the cyber command and will it get in the way of getting the software needed to do the job?

Will you have a hard time with a lot bureaucratic carp just to get the firewall ports open or a piece of software that you need to get the job done?

Will the cyber command be forced on to a common image / hardware setup that is not best setup for the job?

Will you have to put up with a lot carp like how people in the Navy Marine Corps Internet have to put with?

Click (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22729336)

and that it is being watched all the way up the chain of command into the Pentagon.
Goat.. Hang on someone is at the door.
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