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Convergence of Cyberthreats Presents New Global Challenge

The Cyber Edge
April 11, 2017
By Robert K. Ackerman
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Different types of cyber criminals are joining forces to menace the digital realm.

Just as free world militaries are moving toward a convergence of cyberspace, electronic warfare and signals intelligence, the dividing lines that define cyberthreats are disappearing as U.S. adversaries join forces against common targets. Nation-states now are cooperating with cyber criminals and hackers to pursue similar goals. Being motivated by either politics or profit is no drawback to the unholy alliance forming worldwide in cyberspace.

Gen. Michael Hayden, USAF (Ret.), former director of the CIA and the National Security Agency (NSA), offered this gloomy outlook April 11 at the Forcepoint Cybersecurity Leadership Forum in Reston, Virginia. The Chertoff Group principal cited how Russian criminal gangs pulled off major denial-of-service attacks against Estonia a few years ago in return for "favors" from the Russian government, including protection. They also played a role in the recent cyber sabotage of the U.S. presidential election, which he called "the most successful covert influence campaign in the history of covert influence campaigns."

The solution to the challenge of this unholy alliance lies not with government but with private industry, Gen. Hayden declared. When Apple refused to allow access to government agents who wanted to hack a cellphone following the 2015 terrorist attack in San Bernardino, California, many former high-ranking military intelligence officials—including the general himself—sided with Apple. "It's the [Apple CEO] Tim Cooks of the world that keep us safe," he stated.

Instead of government taking the lead in cybersecurity, it should serve as the supporting body to the private sector, Gen. Hayden continued. Government should conform its cybersecurity movements to those in industry. "When government is late to need, the private sector steps in," he pointed out.

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