WASHINGTON– Cyberspace is a warfighting domain, and the Defense Department is taking steps to defend this crucial capability, a Pentagon spokesman said today. “We are aware of a global virus for which there are some public alerts, and we’ve seen some of these on our networks, and we are taking steps to identify and mitigate the virus,” Bryan Whitman said. “We do aggressively monitor our networks for intrusions and take adequate steps to protect them.”

Public alerts on this global virus threat urge all computer users to take precautions. Users should have current anti-viral software programs and anti-spyware installed in their computers, and information technology specialists should ensure that no infected hardware can breach DoD systems, Whitman said.

Whitman would not go into specifics about what the department is doing about the virus. “We don’t discuss any specific defensive measures that we are taking or may be taking to protect and defend our networks,” he said.

DoD’s global information grid includes more than 15,000 networks and about 7 million information technology devices, Pentagon officials said.

Grid defenders regularly send guidance to commands about current threats and measures for users to take to ensure information systems remain secure. “It’s the responsibility of every user to help protect the network,” Whitman said. “This is something that requires us to have constant vigilance.”

The threat comes from a variety of sources, the spokesman said. “It includes everything from recreational hackers to the self-styled cyber-vigilantes,” Whitman said. It also emanates from various groups with nationalistic or ideological agendas, as well as “transnational actors or transnational states,” he added.

“This is not a Defense Department issue. It’s not even a government issue. It is an international issue – a world issue,” Whitman said. “Anyone who uses computers and is on a network is susceptible.”

U.S. Strategic Command is the lead agency for DoD’s computer network defense effort. Under Stratcom, the Joint Task Force Global Network Operations handles protection. That group interfaces with other agencies.

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