MASCOUTAH, Ill. (AP) - A military base in southwestern Illinois has been picked to play an even bigger role defending the country in cyberspace.
The Air Force recently decided that it will spend $16 million to reconfigure existing buildings at Scott Air Force Base to house two new cyber squadrons, the Belleville News-Democrat reported Saturday (http://bit.ly/1muh7qe ).
They'll help defend military and civilian networks and will stage attacks on enemy networks when that's deemed necessary.
The nearly century-old base outside Mascoutah already has a role in cyber defense as home to the Defense Information Systems Agency, which is the military's Internet service provider. Current cyber operations also include protecting the U.S. Transportation Command.
The new squadrons will not only solidify the base's position as a hub of national cybersecurity. They'll also provide a boost to the area economy by creating 320 military and civilian jobs.
The base's new duties in a defense sector rapidly growing in importance should also help protect it from drastic cuts during any new round of base closings, said one cyber expert, Maryland-based A.N. Ananth.
"The investment the government is making there will be central to the Department of Defense for a long time to come," said Ananth, the CEO of EventTracker, which helps the military watch for online attacks.
The U.S. military and corporations face multiple attacks each day and military brass worry that key infrastructure could take heavy hits, damaging to power grids, nuclear power plants, hospital systems and other vital infrastructure.
"There is already a large cyberwar going on right now that people just don't understand," Charles Tendell, the CEO of Colorado Springs-based Azorian Cyber Security told the News-Democrat.
U.S. officials say China is a frequent culprit.
The U.S. indicted five Chinese military officials in May with hacking into U.S. companies to steal vital trade secrets. The Justice Department said the Chinese targeted big-name American makers of nuclear and solar technology. China has demanded the charges be withdrawn.
Already existing cybersecurity operations at the Scott Air Force Base is one reason it's being singled out as one of just a few military cybersecurity hubs, said Tony Cole, chief technology officer for a Milpitas, California-based cybersecurity company, FireEye. He says available land at the base to expand cyber-related facilities is another attraction.
"So I think you're going to see a very nice little industry spring up in the very near term around Scott," he said.
Information from: Belleville News-Democrat, http://www.bnd.com
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