* Cyber Command intelligence chief says attacks accelerating
* Plans under way to promote Cyber Command to top-level unit
* China accused of seeking to "exfiltrate" Pentagon secrets
By Jim Wolf
WASHINGTON, Sept 27 The U.S. Cyber Command's top
intelligence officer accused China on Thursday of persistent
efforts to pierce Pentagon computer networks and said a proposal
was moving forward to boost the cyber command in the U.S.
"Their level of effort against the Department of Defense is
constant" while alleged Chinese attempts to steal corporate
trade secrets has been growing, Rear Admiral Samuel Cox, the
command's director of intelligence, told Reuters after remarks
to a forum on the history of cyber threats.
The Office of the National Counterintelligence Executive, a
U.S. intelligence arm, said in a landmark report a year ago that
"Chinese actors are the world's most persistent perpetrators of
"It's continuing apace," Cox said. "In fact, I'd say it's
still accelerating." He accused China of trying to "exfiltrate"
Pentagon secrets, jargon for sneaking them out.
Asked whether any classified U.S. networks had been
successfully penetrated - something not publicly known to have
occurred - Cox replied: "I can't really get into that."
A spokesman for the Chinese embassy did not immediately
respond to a request for comment. In the past Chinese officials
have denied such accusations.
Cyber Command is responsible for defending Defense
Department networks as well as mounting any U.S. offensive
operations in cyberspace. It was created about two years ago as
a unit of the U.S. Strategic Command, the outfit responsible for
U.S. nuclear and space operations.
Cox said a proposal was moving forward to elevate the
cyberwarfare unit to the status of a full unified combatant
command. This would put it on the same footing as its parent
Strategic Command and the Defense Department's eight other
top-level military units.
The matter was headed to the secretary of defense and the
president for a decision that possibly would come by the end of
the year, he said.
Cox spoke after telling a conference hosted by the Atlantic
Council think tank that the overall sophistication and danger of
cyber threats is increasing at "an accelerating rate, not a
"So the potential for these things to do destructive damage
is very high," he said.
The United States is among the few countries reliably
reported to have mounted a destructive keyboard-launched attack
- against Iran's disputed nuclear centrifuges using malicious
code known as Stuxnet that surfaced in 2010.
Army General Keith Alexander, who simultaneously heads Cyber
Command and the National Security Agency, told a forum in July
that unspecified foreign countries, hackers and criminal gangs
contributed to a 17-fold jump in cyber attacks on U.S.
infrastructure from 2009 to 2011.
Promoting Cyber Command in the military hierarchy would
simplify its operations in cyberspace and boost its ability to
work directly with U.S. government agencies, allies and