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US Defense Department developing secure 4G network and updating rules for cyberwarfare

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General Martin Dempsey, Chair of US Joint Chiefs of Staff
General Martin Dempsey, Chair of US Joint Chiefs of Staff

The US military is in the process of building its own secure 4G wireless network and is also updating its rules of engagement — the guidelines that combat personnel are required to follow when deciding how and when to use force against adversaries — to include new directives dealing with cyberwarfare, according to General Martin Dempsey, Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff. "We are updating our rules of engagement—the first update for cyber in seven years—and improving command and control for cyber forces," Dempsey said today in a prepared speech delivered at the Brookings Institute, a think-tank in Washington, DC. "We have more work to do, but these important steps significantly strengthen our ability to defend the nation at network speed."

Dempsey, the highest ranking military official in the US, said that the update to the rules of engagement was part of a broader overhaul of the Defense Department designed to bolster national cybersecurity. The general cited a "17-fold" increase in cyber attacks on the nation's critical infrastructure from when he was appointed in 2011, though did not specify an exact number of attacks, nor how many occurred prior to his taking office.

But Dempsey did get specific when it came to the amount of money the Defense Department is investing in upgrading its systems to handle cyber threats — $23 billion over the next four years — and he said that the Department would be "consolidating" all 15,000 of its networks into a cloud-based enterprise platform. In a bit of Hollywood flair, he said that the Department was also working on a "a secure 4G wireless network that will get iPads, iPhones, and Android devices online by mid-2014," and that he had one such secure phone on his person during the speech. "This phone would make both Batman and James Bond jealous," Dempsey said. The Defense Department earlier this year just approved Apple iOS devices, Samsung Galaxy S devices running Knox, and BlackBerry 10 for secure use.

"This phone would make both Batman and James Bond jealous."

Dempsey's speech was preceded on Tuesday by separate but similar statements from another military official, Army Maj. Gen. Jennifer L. Napper, director of plans and policy for US Cyber Command. Napper said that the agency would be "re-examining," older policies restricting cyber information sharing. “We’re beyond that," Napper said. “We can do role-based identity management today. We can tag data. We can make sure we can share.”