U.S Transportation Command hit with 180,000 cyber attacks last year (updated)

Here’s an interesting cyber nugget from yesterday’s Senate Armed Services Committee hearing with U.S. Transportation Command chief, Air Force Gen. William Fraser: TRANSCOM, responsible for the global movement of U.S. military forces and their supplies, is the most attacked of all the military’s combatant commands, suffering almost 180,000 cyber attacks in 2012, according to Fraser. ...

U.S. Department of Defense
U.S. Department of Defense
U.S. Department of Defense

Here's an interesting cyber nugget from yesterday's Senate Armed Services Committee hearing with U.S. Transportation Command chief, Air Force Gen. William Fraser: TRANSCOM, responsible for the global movement of U.S. military forces and their supplies, is the most attacked of all the military's combatant commands, suffering almost 180,000 cyber attacks in 2012, according to Fraser.

"We are -- and the best as I can tell, continue to be -- the most attacked command. In fact, as I testified last year that in '11 we had over [44,000], nearly 45,000," said Fraser in response to a question from committee chairman Sen. Carl Levin. "This last year, in 2012, that it actually had quadrupled. It is an area that we have significant concern, but we have taken a lot of action, and it is not in one area. We're taking a holistic approach as we work this specific issue."

Update: A TRANSCOM spokeswoman just provided additional info about the attacks to Killer Apps.

Here’s an interesting cyber nugget from yesterday’s Senate Armed Services Committee hearing with U.S. Transportation Command chief, Air Force Gen. William Fraser: TRANSCOM, responsible for the global movement of U.S. military forces and their supplies, is the most attacked of all the military’s combatant commands, suffering almost 180,000 cyber attacks in 2012, according to Fraser.

"We are — and the best as I can tell, continue to be — the most attacked command. In fact, as I testified last year that in ’11 we had over [44,000], nearly 45,000," said Fraser in response to a question from committee chairman Sen. Carl Levin. "This last year, in 2012, that it actually had quadrupled. It is an area that we have significant concern, but we have taken a lot of action, and it is not in one area. We’re taking a holistic approach as we work this specific issue."

Update: A TRANSCOM spokeswoman just provided additional info about the attacks to Killer Apps.

"The overwhelming number of events involving USTRANSCOM are low-severity, nuisance scanning and probing activities, but there have been events involving advanced persistent attempts to access USTRANSCOM systems," said command spokeswoman Cynthia Bauer in an email. "The command follows the DOD Cyber Incident Handling Program, which defines a computer network event as malicious or suspicious cyber activity against DOD reported in nine categories."

Fraser didn’t elaborate on the types of attacks during the hearing — they could be anything from spear-phishing aimed at collecting information to something more sophisticated, who knows. He did, however, say that none of these attacks had resulted in "significant intrusions to our network." He attributed this to the command’s efforts to shrink the number of places where outsiders can access TRANSCOM’s network and requiring businesses working with the command to have a minimum level of cyber security. The command isn’t waiting for legislation requiring defense contractors to have practice good IT hygiene; it is mandating it via contract.

"We began to write into our contracts the need for more cyber-awareness, cybersecurity," said Fraser. "And so what we started doing then was last year in the springtime writing into our contracts the need for us to have an understanding of what their information assurance plan is. We were not directive in this, but we wanted to know what are you doing to protect your network?"

The command is also requiring contractors to tell it when their networks have been penetrated. (If that sounds familiar, it’s because the 2013 NDAA requires something similar for all defense contractors.)

"When we got those types of reports [about contractors’ networks being breached], we have a process and procedure by which we would ensure that law enforcement is advised, that we would offer any assistance that we have, and then we would stand up a team to determine what impact this might have had to our operations," said Fraser.

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.