Lawmakers push Pentagon to move faster to bolster cybersecurity, improve tech capabilities | #hacking | #cybersecurity | #infosec | #comptia | #pentest | #ransomware

Lawmakers pressured the leaders of the Pentagon’s technology offices to ramp up its efforts to bolster cybersecurity and use of advanced technologies like artificial intelligence as threats from China and Russia continue to grow.

Improving cybersecurity and advancing technological capabilities for the military is one of the leading challenges facing national security and defense agencies moving forward as Congress also debates how to best protect the nation’s critical infrastructure and defense industry as more adversaries continue to expand their military capabilities using technology.

Multiple leaders of America’s defense and intelligence agencies have appeared before Congress to warn of the grave threats the nation faces as technology continues to advance, prompting a push for action from lawmakers and the White House.

Lawmakers pushed the Pentagon’s top technology officials to move faster to develop its systems and get soldiers the tools they need to deal with more advanced threats.

“No one obviously expects the Pentagon — largest bureaucracy in the world — to turn on a dime. It’s an aircraft carrier, not a little Corvette, but I don’t think any member believes that department is moving with the speed, force, or unity of action necessary to get our warfighters what they need,” said Rep. Mike Gallagher, R-Wis.

Officials that testified at the hearing detailed the Pentagon’s long list of moves to ramp up its adoption and innovation, including partnering with private companies, contracting the tech sector to help develop software and programs to aid with defense initiatives to get soldiers what they need.

“It is critical more than ever that we provide DOD personnel with secure and resilient software when and where they need it. We recognize the urgency of this issue and are working hard to ensure we are successful,” said John Sherman, the Pentagon’s chief information officer.

Intelligence agencies have identified China as the leading cyber threat to national security with concerns over malware being built into technology they export or hackers being able to targe critical infrastructure and defense systems. Beijing has ramped up its cyber capabilities over the years through massive investments into various parts of its technology sector that U.S. intelligence leaders say expands its espionage capabilities and poses a greater danger to national security.

“China’s doing this today,” said Rep. Seth Moulton, D-Mass. “They have their top AI companies working on their military problems, so this is another thing where we’ve got to have the urgency to get this done.”

Congress and the Biden administration have sought to combat China’s rise through export controls of advanced technology and imposing rules on private corporations to prevent American-made technology helping fuel its military and espionage efforts. The House also passed a bipartisan bill that would effectively ban TikTok over concerns that its powerful algorithm could be leveraged to sway public opinion and a Chinese security law could give Beijing unfettered access to Americans’ data.

The rapid development and expanded use of artificial intelligence has also prompted a push to pass legislation to regulate the industry and incorporate it into defense systems to bolster the military amid threats posed by adoption of the technology by adversarial nations.

It has also been adopted by the Pentagon to pilot surveillance drones, keep track of what’s flying through space and beyond, with top leaders still trying to figure out how else they can utilize the technology to advance its capabilities. Artificial intelligence has already found its way to battlefields in the wars between Russia and Ukraine and in Israel in its fight against Hamas.

Several lawmakers questioned how the Pentagon was moving to integrate AI and if they were doing it fast enough as China and other adversaries have quickly used it for weapons and espionage. While defense leaders are working to further incorporate AI into systems to better help soldiers, they are also trying to combat the risks of making more tasks fully automated by machines.

“There’s a very large demand signal for AI to replace experts and allow novices to replace experts. That’s where I think it’s dangerous,” said Craig Martell, chief digital and artificial intelligence officer. “Where I think it’s going to be most effective is helping experts be better experts, or helping someone who knows their job well be better at the job that they know well.”

One area where the Pentagon is heavily invested time and resources into with AI is developing AI-enabled autonomous vehicles that are also in development by some of the U.S.’ greatest adversaries like Russia, China, India and Iran. The Defense Department announced the Replicator initiative last year with a focus on fielding thousands of autonomous systems over the next two years to combat China’s investment in such weapons systems.

“They’re gonna be extremely important,” Martell said about autonomous systems. “We have to continue to drive that forward,” Martell said.


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