Hearing a major network has been hacked is never a good thing. Hearing the Department of Defense has had their network compromised is slightly worse still. Hearing it happened because of foreign spies would be the worst possibility of all. According to security experts the possibility is right around the corner, and the DoD aren't prepared for it.
The experts spoke before the snappily-titled Senate Armed Services Subcommittee on Emerging Threats and Capabilities, as CIO reports. One argument raised by committee expert James Peery is as follows:
“We’ve got the wrong model here. … I think we’ve got this model for cyber that says, ‘We’re going to develop a system where we’re not attacked.’ I think we have to go to a model where we assume that the adversary is in our networks. It’s on our machines, and we’ve got to operate anyway. We have to protect the data anyway."
The belief is that, for all the money dumped into protecting the network and information it contains, security is not vastly improved. This is entirely feasible; after all, even the best security system in the world is only as strong as the people in charge of it. DARPA's Acting Director argued in another direction: the Department of Defense has simply layered security onto an existing architecture which is inadequate for fighting against new threats, hoping simply that threats are already known before they strike.
He warned also, that the DoD is limited in its capabilities for offensive actions online, much like in defensive actions. With many of the dire warnings came a request for more funding, so there's a good capacity for hyperbole and generous expansions of the truth. Research and Development director of the NSA Michael Wertheimer believes the government funding for 2013 will be sufficient as long as it is spent wisely. Of course, he's able to say this quite easily. The NSA happens to be one of the agencies with top-secret funding.
The possibility of the Department of Defense being made to look like fools is one which almost definitely has hacktivists with ideologies to share salivating. Not many chances appear to make complete fools out of the United States government and its agencies, and those which are taken would be dealt with harshly (such Gary McKinnon's UFO hunt), but those prepared to take action will likely receive the infamy they seek.