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US military revamp sees $23bn commited to tackling cyber-attacks

With threats to national security continuing to mount in the cyber-sphere, the US is ramping up its digital arsenal via a restructuring programme within the Department of Defense (DoD).

It is the first time the States has revised its rules of engagement in this realm for seven years, and further demonstrates how seriously the Obama administration is taking issues around cyber-conflict.

The news arrives in the same week hackers leaked the personal details of 40,000 US military staff and a report from the Council of Foreign Relations warned that America’s oil and natural gas operations were under serious threat from cyber-attacks.

"The Department of Defense has developed emergency procedures to guide our response to imminent, significant cyber threats," announced Martin Dempsey, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff - the highest-ranking officer in the US military.

"We are updating our rules of engagement - the first update for cyber in seven years - and improving command and control for cyber forces," Dempsey confirmed, reports the AFP.

The shake-up will see around 4,000 cyber-security experts join the DoD over the next four years, with some $23 billion (£15 billion) in extra funds committed to tackling cyber-threats.

The department’s ‘Cybercom’ unit will now be split into three divisions: one for countering enemy attacks, another offering regional support, and a third for protecting the USA’s 15,000 or so military computer networks.

Tellingly, Dempsey revealed that intrusions into the US’s critical infrastructure had “increased 17-fold” since he became military chief in 2011. He added that mitigation of the attacks is being held back by the lack of preventative action from the private sector.

"Our nation's effort to protect civilian critical infrastructure is lagging," he said. "Too few companies have invested adequately in cyber security."