Worldwide militaries are now recruiting “cyber warriors,” a new breed of soldier that may revolutionize cyber warfare, but their particular talents may place them in conflict with traditional military culture.
Militaries in the Americas, Asia and Europe are beginning to train cyber soldiers in addition to maintaining regular armies. In December, for example, the U.S. Army’s “cyber brigade” joined the Navy’s corresponding “fleet” and Air Force’s “wing,” thanks to the Pentagon’s $2.5 million allotment for improving cyber capabilities.
“Cyberspace requires a world-class cyber warrior,” said head of U.S. Cyber Command Lt. Gen. Rhett Hernandez. “We must develop, recruit and retain in a different way today.”
The need for cyber warriors has grown as the military and security institutions of the U.S. grapple with the increasingly cyber nature of warfare, and require new skills and abilities in these new kind of warriors. But these groups are learning that the type of soldiers they need differ in style, temperament and abilities from the typical recruit.
Currently, the U.S. military requires all cyber warriors to complete basic training, although the Navy and Air Force lately relaxed regulations on employment requirements like hair length and fitness.
But the process of creating military cyber units has its difficulties, however. The rigors of military life continue to repel often introverted and eccentric computer engineers, who turn instead to the private sector.
Given these problems, the National Security Administration may have more luck than the Army at recruiting new cyber warriors. The NSA’s technical director Richard George sought out potential cyber warriors at Defcon last year, an annual hacker convention held in Las Vegas.
George’s pitch seemed to appeal more to those he interviewed, since the NSA doesn’t have stringent dress code or fitness requirements.
“When I walk down the hall there are people that I see every day and I never know what color their hair’s going to be,” George remarked. “And it’s a bonus if they’re wearing shoes. We’ve been in some sense a collection of geeks for a long, long time.”
As a result, cyber warriors will likely sign on with the NSA and similar organizations before they join the Army. Still, military institutions will likely need to reach out to the computer engineering communities, and could relax their requirements in order to recruit the cyber soldiers they increasing need as large-scale cyber attacks ramp up worldwide.
As the threat of cyber warfare grows, militaries across the world would do well to recognize cyber warriors’ unique employment requirements to properly channel their talent.