[BreachExchange] Cybersecurity is 'greatest concern' at Senate threats hearing
audrey at riskbasedsecurity.com
Tue Feb 13 18:58:52 EST 2018
For the top intelligence agencies in the US, technology has pushed aside
terrorism as a top national security threat.
The leaders of six of those agencies, including the CIA, the NSA and the
FBI, testified before the Senate Intelligence Committee on Tuesday, during
its annual "Worldwide Threats" hearing. They discussed concerns ranging
from terrorist attacks to nuclear strikes, but amajor portion of the
hearing was dedicated to discussing threats coming from technology.
Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats said in his opening statement
that cybersecurity is his "greatest concern" and "top priority," putting it
ahead of threats like weapons of mass destruction and terrorism.
"From US businesses to the federal government to state and local
governments, the United States is threatened by cyberattacks every day,"
Those worries aren't new. In December, President Donald Trump issued a
national security strategy document that described cybersecurity as a top
priority, citing threats including hackers from criminal enterprises and
from places like Russia, China and Iran. That declaration came at the end
of a long year awash in online security issues, from the WannaCry
ransomware attack to probes into the hacking of critical infrastructure to
revelations of Russian misinformation campaigns waged via social media.
In his opening statement, Sen. Mark Warner, the committee's vice chairman,
highlighted his concerns about Russians spreading propaganda through
Facebook, Google and Twitter, an issue the Democrat from Virginia has
pressed the Silicon Valley tech titans on before.
Warner called out Russian bots and trolls and their potential to affect
"This is a dangerous trend," he said. "This campaign of innuendo and
misinformation should alarm us all, Republican and Democrat alike."
Coats also described threats from foreign propaganda online, pointing out
that it's a low-cost and low-risk avenue for attackers. He told the
committee that Russian operatives viewed the propaganda campaign during the
2016 election as a success, and warned it would continue.
"There is no doubt that Russia sees the 2018 elections as a target," Coats
The fact that Coats started the discussion with cybersecurity, Warner said,
was "very telling in terms of how we view worldwide threats."
FBI Director Christopher Wray said social media companies are getting
better at cooperating with the government to take down propaganda posts,
but it could be improved. In previous Senate hearings, representatives from
Facebook, Google and Twitter have encouraged a more hands-off approach from
"We can't fully police social media, so we have to work with them so they
can police themselves better," Wray said.
Sen. Richard Burr, the committee's chairman, directed his questions about
cybersecurity to NSA Director Michael Rogers. The Republican from North
Carolina wanted to know about how protected critical US infrastructure,
from computers to energy supply, is from cyberattacks.
"Cyber is clearly the most challenging threat vector this country faces,"
Burr said. "It's also one of the most concerning, given how many aspects of
our daily lives can be disrupted by a well-planned, well-executed
Rogers highlighted issues surrounding internet-of-things devices, pointing
out how widespread they are and their lack of security. Connected devices
are notorious for insecure settings, leading to major cyberattacks.
"If you think the problem is challenging now, just wait. It's going to get
much, much worse," Rogers said
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