Intel Chief says Sequestration to Hamper Cyberthreats Fight

At a hearing of the Senate Intelligence Committee today, National Intelligence Director James clapper said cyberthreats are the biggest problem facing the U.S. today. His prepared remarks are here.

Clapper explained that cyber threats are broken into two terms: cyberattacks and cyberespionage. Cyberattacks aim at creating physical effects or to manipulate, disrupt or delete data. “It might range from a denial-of-service operation that temporarily prevents access to a website to an attack on a power turbine that causes physical damage and an outage lasting for days,” he said. Cyber espionage refers to stealing data from a variety of sources.

“We judge that there is a remote chance of a major cyberattack against U.S. critical infrastructure systems during the next two years that would result in long-term, wide-scale disruption of services, such as a regional power outage,” Clapper said.


More from Clapper:

A more insidious cyber threat comes from foreign intelligence and security services that have penetrated numerous computer networks of U.S. government, business, academic and private-sector entities, Clapper said. “Most detected activity has targeted unclassified networks connected to the Internet, but foreign cyber actors are also targeting classified networks,” he said. “Importantly, much of the nation’s critical proprietary data are on sensitive, but unclassified, networks -- and the same is true for most of our closest allies.”

On cyber-terrorists:

U.S, intelligence agencies track cyber developments among terrorist groups, activist hackers and cyber criminals, the intelligence director said. “We have seen indications that some terrorist organizations have heightened interest in developing offensive cyber capabilities,” he added, “but they will probably be constrained by inherent resource and organizational limitations and competing priorities.”

On Hactivists:

intelligence professionals have not observed a significant change in their capabilities or intentions during the last year, Clapper said.
“Most hacktivists use short-term denial-of-service operations or expose personally identifiable information held by target companies, as forms of political protest,” he said, adding that this could change.

On economic cyber-espionage:

“However, we assess that economic cyber espionage will probably allow the actors who take this information to reap unfair gains in some industries.”

Clapper also protested sequestration cuts:

The required cuts “will reduce human technical and counterintelligence operations, resulting in fewer collection opportunities, while increasing the risk of strategic surprise,” Clapper added. “All we’re asking for is the latitude on how to take them to minimize the damage.”

His description of threats sounds very qualified to me (some are remote, some are possible and others probable in a few years.) But, of course, there was Dianne Feinstein, promising to introduce "an amendment to allow intelligence budgets the same degree of flexibility permitted for general Defense Department spending."

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  • Display: Sort:
    There are only so many times (5.00 / 7) (#2)
    by Anne on Tue Mar 12, 2013 at 03:52:54 PM EST
    someone can shout "BOO!!" at us before it stops being scary.  

    Seriously, if the consequences of budget cuts are so dire, why the ongoing zeal to make them?

    Defense says we're all going up in a ball of terrorist flame.  Homeland Security says we will be overrun with brown people who want to kill us.  The TSA says there will be long lines at airports and not enough controllers to manage air traffic.  Intelligence says our entire cyberstructure will be compromised into uselessness.  The air and water will be dirtier, the food will be less safe, the pharmaceuticals will be more dangerous.

    Meanwhile, back at the ranch, services that affect real people on a day-to-day basis - children, the poor, seniors, the disabled and chronically ill - are also targeted for cuts that will have a profound impact on the ability of many of them to have anything remotely resembling a minimally decent standard of living.  But all this "BOO!!" from the anti-terror monolith and the corporate juggernaut is having the effect of deafening people to the really scary consequences of cuts on the domestic front.

    So, hello - don't just carve out exceptions for those with the biggest sticks, just admit that this is all a game of smoke and mirrors - as evidenced by the fact that even before the cuts, the deficit is going down, and repeal the freaking sequester.

    The lot of them should be thrown out on their ears for the level of malfeasance, incompetence, ignorance and chutzpah to which they are subjecting us.

    B.S. (5.00 / 1) (#4)
    by bocajeff on Tue Mar 12, 2013 at 05:51:26 PM EST
    There isn't a person on this site who couldn't come up with $85 billion in cuts that would have a big impact on anyone...Enough with the scare tactics.

    Seriously... (none / 0) (#8)
    by kdog on Wed Mar 13, 2013 at 08:11:40 AM EST
    Dollars to donuts no one at DHS or TSA or FBI or CIA has even checked to see what they're spending on office supplies...how did the boy who cried wolf end up in charge of every federal agency?

    Should we not try to fight this stuff? (none / 0) (#1)
    by vicndabx on Tue Mar 12, 2013 at 02:53:05 PM EST
    I'd like to see us do so.  At the very least, some standards around storage of personal data would be nice.

    I don't doubt there is a real issue with this (none / 0) (#3)
    by shoephone on Tue Mar 12, 2013 at 05:15:38 PM EST
    But one has to laugh a little after hearing that FBI director Robert Mueller's personal information was splashed across the web a few days ago by "hackatavists." I mean, really. What does it take to secure the personal information of the top dog of our nation's domestic intelligence agency??

    Haven't you heard... (none / 0) (#7)
    by kdog on Wed Mar 13, 2013 at 08:09:25 AM EST
    Mueller got hacked because the sequester...lol.

    If a cut of 2% (none / 0) (#5)
    by jimakaPPJ on Tue Mar 12, 2013 at 08:36:40 PM EST
    destroys us then we truly are in disastrous shape.

    One (none / 0) (#6)
    by lentinel on Tue Mar 12, 2013 at 10:02:45 PM EST
    thing I get from all this is that the people who were our enemies are still our enemies. Not much progress there.

    Haven't you heard... (none / 0) (#9)
    by kdog on Wed Mar 13, 2013 at 08:13:16 AM EST
    that's the sequester's fault too...2% less to spend on peace-making.  We were this close to world peace and harmony...this close! lol