Cyber threat growing at unprecedented rate, intell chief says

Director of national intelligence details intell agencies' assessment of cyber threat

Malicious cyber activity is growing at an unprecedented rate, severely threatening the nation's public and private information infrastructure, the government's top intelligence official said today.

Dennis Blair, the director of national intelligence, told members of the Senate Select Intelligence Committee,that “in the dynamic of cyberspace, the technology balance right now favors malicious actors rather than legal actors, and is likely to continue that way for quite some time.”

Sensitive information is stolen daily from government and private-sector networks and intelligence officials often find persistent, unauthorized, and sometimes unattributable presences on exploited networks, Blair said in prepared remarks about intelligence agencies' annual threat assessment.

“We cannot be certain that our cyberspace infrastructure will remain available and reliable during a time of crisis,” he testified.


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Meanwhile, Blair said cyber criminals have “displayed remarkable technical innovation with an agility presently exceeding the response capability of network defenders.” He added network convergence and channel consolidation potentially increases vulnerabilities and consequences of failure in security.

Blair said intelligence agencies are integrating cybersecurity with counterintelligence and bolstering the ability to understand, detect, attribute and counter cyber threats. Blair said he directed the creation of a cyber directorate to provide outreach for foreign intelligence threat warnings and ensure that insider threats are stopped.

Blair said threats come from nation states, terrorist networks, organizational criminal groups, and individuals. He also said cooperation with industry and international partners is necessary for cybersecurity.

“I am here today to stress that, acting independently, neither the U.S. government nor the private sector can fully control or protect the country’s information infrastructure,” Blair testified. “Yet, with increased national attention and investment in cyber security initiatives, I am confident the United States can implement measures to mitigate this negative situation.”

About the Author

Ben Bain is a reporter for Federal Computer Week.

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