From left to right: Marc Gordon, Mike Sheehan, Steve Adler, Mike McConnell, Frank Cilluffo
As a Reuters special report uncovered this week, the U.S. seems to be waging an uphill cyber battle against the world’s hackers.
In the year of Julian Assange and WikiLeaks, this week saw the CIA’s website infiltrated and compromised by another capable antagonist. And these “point-and-click tools” are becoming more accessible to would-be cyber warriors as cloud-based technology proliferates, says Frank Cilluffo, director of George Washington University’s Homeland Security Policy Institute.
Cilluffo was one of four cyberterrorism authorities to speak on the phenomenon with Reuters Editor-in-Chief Stephen Adler, who moderated a panel on the subject at New York’s 92nd Street Y Thursday.
The group also featured former National Security Agency Director Mike McConnell, Bank of America’s chief technology officer Marc Gordon, and former NYPD Deputy Commissioner of Counterterrorism Mike Sheehan.
As the country approaches its 10-year anniversary of 9/11, New York City’s new vulnerability involves a potential cyberterrorism attack, the panelists acknowledged. Yet Al Qaeda has never posed a serious cyber threat, noted Sheehan, who claimed China and Russia appear better equipped to deliver on cyber threats.
“And we have not held China accountable for decades,” he added. “We can’t afford to strain our security budget, but we must hold them accountable, or we will go bankrupt.”
While McConnell called China “prolific and noisy,” he offered Russia has demonstrated a broader electronic-espionage capability. As for countering such threats here in New York City, President Bill Clinton’s former NSA director suggested “it’s incumbent on the federal government to share information more effectively.”
But how will the government keep up? Today’s cyber threats require swift Congressional action, something that looks good on paper but rarely translates into action. Deterring threats to commit cyberterrorism, however, will be virtually impossible, McConnell said.
That’s because technology continues to outpace U.S. lawmakers’ efforts to combat cyber crimes. And it’s why CIA Chief Leon Panetta warned this week that cyberterrorism would be “the next Pearl Harbor that we confront.”
Also see: Reuters story on Bank of America’s reaction to WikiLeaks’ threats.