Quote of the week: Are we doing enough?

One official responsible for keeping the Defense Department’s online information safe from hackers worries less about sophisticated new attacks than he does about someone forgetting to turn on the cyber equivalent of the Pentagon’s burglar alarm. The Pentagon has so much defensive cyber technology and so many practices "that we just haven’t fully leveraged." That ...

U.S. Air Force
U.S. Air Force
U.S. Air Force

One official responsible for keeping the Defense Department's online information safe from hackers worries less about sophisticated new attacks than he does about someone forgetting to turn on the cyber equivalent of the Pentagon's burglar alarm.

The Pentagon has so much defensive cyber technology and so many practices "that we just haven't fully leveraged." That "is what keeps me up at night," said Mark Orndorff, program executive officer for mission assurance at the Pentagon's IP provider, the Defense Information Systems Agency. This brief comment in the middle of a long panel discussion on cybersecurity this week immediately caught Killer Apps' attention.

"We have so much capability that is positioning us to stay in front of the threat, but have we thought through and applied ourselves in a way that we should to leverage that in a way to make sure we're getting the most out of it?" said Orndorff. "If somebody is just flat smarter than us and they come up with [a threat] that we can't deal with, that's not what keeps me up at night."

One official responsible for keeping the Defense Department’s online information safe from hackers worries less about sophisticated new attacks than he does about someone forgetting to turn on the cyber equivalent of the Pentagon’s burglar alarm.

The Pentagon has so much defensive cyber technology and so many practices "that we just haven’t fully leveraged." That "is what keeps me up at night," said Mark Orndorff, program executive officer for mission assurance at the Pentagon’s IP provider, the Defense Information Systems Agency. This brief comment in the middle of a long panel discussion on cybersecurity this week immediately caught Killer Apps’ attention.

"We have so much capability that is positioning us to stay in front of the threat, but have we thought through and applied ourselves in a way that we should to leverage that in a way to make sure we’re getting the most out of it?" said Orndorff. "If somebody is just flat smarter than us and they come up with [a threat] that we can’t deal with, that’s not what keeps me up at night."

Orndorff refused to provide details about specific tech that the DoD isn’t using to its fullest potential, lest he compromise Pentagon security, but he clearly worries about the Department of Defense leaving itself unnecessarily vulnerable.

"We have solutions that we own, and we want to make them as effective as possible," Orndorff told Killer Apps, when asked to elaborate after the discussion. "The idea is, when you go to bed at night, have you done everything you personally can do to counter the threat?"

Orndorff’s comments echo a common refrain from cyber security experts — that many threats stem simply from the failure to practice basic IT security hygiene.

John Reed is a national security reporter for Foreign Policy. He comes to FP after editing Military.com’s publication Defense Tech and working as the associate editor of DoDBuzz. Between 2007 and 2010, he covered major trends in military aviation and the defense industry around the world for Defense News and Inside the Air Force. Before moving to Washington in August 2007, Reed worked in corporate sales and business development for a Swedish IT firm, The Meltwater Group in Mountain View CA, and Philadelphia, PA. Prior to that, he worked as a reporter at the Tracy Press and the Scotts Valley Press-Banner newspapers in California. His first story as a professional reporter involved chasing escaped emus around California’s central valley with Mexican cowboys armed with lassos and local police armed with shotguns. Luckily for the giant birds, the cowboys caught them first and the emus were ok. A New England native, Reed graduated from the University of New Hampshire with a dual degree in international affairs and history.

More from Foreign Policy

An illustration shows George Kennan, the father of Cold War containment strategy.
An illustration shows George Kennan, the father of Cold War containment strategy.

Is Cold War Inevitable?

A new biography of George Kennan, the father of containment, raises questions about whether the old Cold War—and the emerging one with China—could have been avoided.

U.S. President Joe Biden speaks on the DISCLOSE Act.
U.S. President Joe Biden speaks on the DISCLOSE Act.

So You Want to Buy an Ambassadorship

The United States is the only Western government that routinely rewards mega-donors with top diplomatic posts.

Chinese President Xi jinping  toasts the guests during a banquet marking the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China on September 30, 2019 in Beijing, China.
Chinese President Xi jinping toasts the guests during a banquet marking the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China on September 30, 2019 in Beijing, China.

Can China Pull Off Its Charm Offensive?

Why Beijing’s foreign-policy reset will—or won’t—work out.

Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar chairs a meeting in Ankara, Turkey on Nov. 21, 2022.
Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar chairs a meeting in Ankara, Turkey on Nov. 21, 2022.

Turkey’s Problem Isn’t Sweden. It’s the United States.

Erdogan has focused on Stockholm’s stance toward Kurdish exile groups, but Ankara’s real demand is the end of U.S. support for Kurds in Syria.