Supply Chain News / eSupply Chain / Risk & Compliance

The DOD's Struggle for Cybersecurity in the Global Supply Chain

October 1, 2012
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The Defense Department remains "vigilant and committed to cybersecurity, especially since its cyber operations present a target for hackers," a senior Pentagon official said on Sept. 25, 2012.

Speaking at the Telework Exchange’s fall town meeting, David L. DeVries, the Defense Department’s deputy chief information officer for joint information enterprise, said the department is an attractive target for potential cyber attacks, due in part to its size.

“DOD is a large magnet for the security vulnerability side of the house,” he said. “Just like they would like to hack into Wall Street or a financial institution, they would also like to hack into the Department of Defense and other federal agencies here.”

Defense Department officials take cybersecurity very seriously, DeVries said, and that creates pressure on the department’s information technology personnel to stay vigilant.

“It gets exponentially more complex to ensure the security of the whole thing,” he said. “And that’s why I have to keep security at the [forefront].”

Meanwhile, according to a article, a White House executive order on cybersecurity is “close to completion.”

The article goes on to state that:

The draft order is being reviewed at the "highest levels" and some issues still need to be ironed out, she said. President Obama has yet to review it. If he decides to move forward, an executive order would likely establish a system of voluntary standards to be followed by certain critical companies, such as those that control chemical plants or power grids.

Future regulations to hacker-proof the global flow of goods and services that produce military electronics must be flexible, Pentagon officials said, amid industry outcries that a forthcoming cybersecurity executive order could stifle technological creativity.

The supply chain problem is growing as contractor manufacturing lines for perhaps just one chip now comprise thousands of hands worldwide and many updates. A major concern is foreign powers, such as China, will intentionally slip trap doors into software and later remotely knock out weapons systems or steal intellectual property.

But screening for security holes and ensuring that malicious actors can’t get in are nearly impossible tasks, Defense Department officials say. Segregating production at each point along the chain would be largely futile, says Brett Lambert, Defense deputy assistant secretary for manufacturing and the industrial base.

“At the end of the day, despite spending over a billion dollars a day, we in the Pentagon don’t actually build anything,” Lambert says. “We rely on our industrial supply chain to develop, build, and ultimately maintain the goods and services upon which our warfighters lives depend, as well as the lives of the citizens they defend.”

Congressional watchdogs are not happy with the current state of supply chain security. The Senate Armed Services Committee identified 1,800 instances of suspected fake electronic parts moving through the supply chain between 2009 and 2010, according to a May report. The number of components flagged in each of those cases surpassed 1 million, and most of the components – 70 percent – originated in China. The suspect parts turned up on mission computers for the Missile Defense Agency’s Terminal High Altitude Area Defense missile and aircraft.

As World Trade 100 reported in March, the Government Accountability Office announced undercover investigators had ordered military-grade parts from online portals and received back 40 price quotes for bogus part numbers -- all from vendors located in China. When the auditors asked vendors for invalid part numbers concocted by GAO, the firms sent the auditors fake parts labeled with the invalid numbers. In other words, the Chinese suppliers offered to sell parts that do not technically exist.

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