Innovation leadership makes US a cyber target

The United States' history as a leading innovator in technology, manufacturing and intellectual capital means cybersecurity must be understood as a matter of national security, according to one former National Security Agency official.

The stakes are high because intellectual property that is not adequately protected could fall into the hands of a foreign government looking to give its own industry a leg up, said Richard Schaeffer, principal at Security Innovation Network and former NSA information assurance director.

“If you’ve got something that an adversary wants, they’re going to get it if they want it bad enough,” said Schaeffer, who spoke April 4 at the FOSE conference in Washington, D.C.

Already, the U.S. has lost at least hundreds of billions of dollars to malicious cyber infiltration.

“Gen. Alexander once made a statement in a public forum putting the number [associated with cyber fraud and theft loss] at a trillion dollars. Frankly I think the intellectual property loss over the long term is a lot larger than that,” Schaeffer said.

To start to fix the problem, private companies and the government both need to migrate critical networks and data to better-protected infrastructure, with network segmentation and hardened end-systems being key. A failure to do so could result in the U.S. falling behind as the innovation front-runner, he said.

“The reality is…our way of life is tied to our innovation and intellectual property, and that should be a leading element [of formulating cyber defense],” Schaeffer said. “The loss of intellectual property is a problem today and it will be a problem tomorrow. We’re a young nation but we’ve been the number one innovator for a long time; I can’t think of being number two.”

About the Author

Amber Corrin is a former staff writer for FCW and Defense Systems.

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