US 10th Fleet commander encourages cyber partnerships

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The head of U.S. Fleet Cyber Command/10th Fleet has stressed the importance of cyber partnerships to synchronize efforts and mitigate friendly fire.

Speaking at the AFCEA West conference in San Diego on Tuesday, Vice Adm. Michael Gilday said when his team takes action against a nation-state actor in cyberspace, this activity should be coordinated with the FBI, who Gilday said might well be knowledgeable about that actor and its behaviors.

“If you’re going to throw fires downrange, they should be synchronized and deconflicted because we don’t want to hurt each other,” he said.

The next layer of coordination involves working with international partners, much like the intelligence-sharing community Five Eyes, which consists of the Unites States, the United Kingdom, New Zealand, Australia and Canada. Gilday said these relationships are powerful because these partners sometimes have authorities to conduct offensive actions in cyberspace that differ from those in the U.S. “Sometimes we might have a better advantage in a space, but sometimes they might,” he said.

Government leaders in the cyberspace sector have long stressed the importance of partnerships, both across the government and the private sector.

From an interagency perspective, these partnerships are of growing importance given that malicious actors are not geographically bound.

“The threats that we face in cyberspace have no home port, they have no geographic boundaries, they operate in a domain that is global, they hide in places like coffee shops in Portugal, libraries in Uganda, and their attack vectors are difficult to pick up,” Gilday said.

Gilday recognized the threat cyber actors pose for the military, given the armed forces are organized in a geographic command structure. He noted that the operating space can span from the South China Sea to Washington, D.C., if one considers the operating space begins at an adversary’s IP or non-friendly red space, traverses the space an adversary co-opts in a neutral nation, referred to as a gray space, and ends up all the way in a friendly blue space.

Further complicating matters, cyber actors tend to obscure their actions with the rest of the internet’s traffic, which can include about four billion users online at any given time, he said.