Cyber chief warns of rising danger from cyber attacks
Credit: Getty Images
July 9th, 2012
07:13 PM ET

Cyber chief warns of rising danger from cyber attacks

By Suzanne Kelly

In a rare public appearance Monday, the head of the country's Cyber Command warned that the nature of cyberattacks is changing and becoming more dangerous.

Gen. Keith Alexander also talked about the economic toll that cyberintrusions are taking on American business, saying that for every intrusion detected by the FBI, there are 100 others that remain undetected.

"The probability for crisis is mounting," said Alexander, who also heads the National Security Agency. He told an audience at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington that he was concerned about the changing nature of the threat from disruptive to destructive attacks and that the numbers of cyber attacks against business and critical infrastructure are on the rise.

Alexander used the public opportunity to urge Congress to quickly pass legislation that would give the government additional authorities to communicate what it knows with the private sector to enable a closer public-private partnership when it comes to cybersecurity. Critics argue that giving the government too much power will come at a cost when it comes to civil liberties.

"We can protect civil liberties and protect cyberspace," said Alexander, who added that the government is not interested in reading private e-mail, but is interested in identifying the IP addresses from which malicious computer programs are being launched.

Alexander said there are still concerns that terrorist groups like al Qaeda may launch a cyberattack. He added that al Qaeda "is not viable in that realm right now," but said that could change quickly and that concerns him.

soundoff (46 Responses)
  1. Keven Einck

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    April 30, 2013 at 5:10 pm | Reply
  2. Jnickel

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    August 3, 2012 at 5:00 am | Reply
  3. burnouttx

    What is so funny about this is that just about every I.T. guy/gal and their grandmother have been beating this subject into the ground for the past decade. We knew this was coming but alas the only way to get the higher ups in management all excited about security and not be so damn reactionary is find out where their office is and set the building across the street on fire.

    July 16, 2012 at 9:41 am | Reply
  4. lance

    stop buying from communist china, they started all this crap.

    July 11, 2012 at 8:26 pm | Reply
    • Kenzie

      Posted on Great post Sam.First step is to drop the Best Integrated Campaign' category from asvertiding awards ceremonies. Not a great example of integration as a verb' to young planners out there.

      August 1, 2012 at 10:12 am | Reply
  5. No Gamble

    I would be more conserned with the US governments plans to take over the web than the attack itself. They will claim the sky is falling and put a solution in place that gives them greater access to spy on us

    July 11, 2012 at 6:33 pm | Reply
  6. Lee Oates

    We have used the same tactics on other countries [like Iran] now the actions are being returned. I wonder how long it will be before we receive our first inbound drone attack from someone we have attacked.

    July 11, 2012 at 2:01 am | Reply
    • NellyFromMA

      Probably not that likely seeing as how we don't launch terrorist attacks on peaceful nations.

      July 11, 2012 at 9:23 am | Reply
  7. Steves

    Cy Bear attacks?

    July 10, 2012 at 2:04 pm | Reply
  8. ButtPhuckIsStan

    What's the internet?

    July 10, 2012 at 9:12 am | Reply
    • Senator Ted Stevens

      The Internet is not a big truck. Its a series of tubes.

      July 10, 2012 at 10:47 am | Reply
      • Grim Reaper

        Hey buddy, you're supposed to be dead.

        July 10, 2012 at 8:22 pm |
  9. really???

    Using fear to control people is terrorism.
    This idiot is a terrorist.
    Nothing more.

    July 10, 2012 at 6:27 am | Reply
    • michaelfury

      http://michaelfury.wordpress.com/2010/09/10/ghosts-in-the-machine/

      July 10, 2012 at 7:50 am | Reply
      • Honey

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        August 3, 2012 at 4:43 am |
    • Dhinie

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      September 13, 2012 at 3:20 am | Reply
  10. revelations 13:7

    right, so let's put it in FED hands.... their just having a hell of a time combating all the information that's readily available on the internet and painting them all as demons. more 'public safety/national security' hokum, when it's all really about control.

    July 9, 2012 at 10:38 pm | Reply
  11. rob

    We need to prevent government from enforcing any boundaries inward – meaning any boundaries setup do infringe upon our rights as citizens. We must not let government enforce policy to protect businesses / commerce at the level in which it affects individual rights / freedoms. This country is not about financials etc. it's about people. Anyone who thinks different is un-american. People first, screw businesses / commerce – they are secondary.

    We can however, leverage technology against cyber attacks, simply.

    We can firewall countries / offenders from gaining access to any leg of networks within the US – I do it as a means of protection to my commerce. I block china, carribean, netherlands etc from gaining access. We can instruct telco companies to do the same – block routes inbound from coutries where cyberthreats emanate from. It's reasonable to do so. We would simply tell those countries, hey, we will not allow any electronic forms of commerce from your country to ours until you get your people (who represent cyberthreat) under control. That means no internet (web pages, email, commerce, etc)...

    We can do this. it's simple.

    So, the thinking is block them (other countries) vs. enforce policies on our own people.

    Again, if anyone thinks this is impossible – as it may affect commerce / communications – too bad. We were sending physical letters and boxes before the net arrived, we were doing commerce at a lot slower pace – but it was being done....

    Businesses will just have to accept those rules, that in protection of our rights and freedoms as US citizens, businesses will have to yield to our best interests.

    July 9, 2012 at 10:13 pm | Reply
    • Charlie

      Your solution is, unfortunately, too simple and ineffective. All that is needed to bypass it is to route through nations not otherwise affected. That concept has been used by hackers since the 70's by getting into systems that their actual target trusts.

      July 15, 2012 at 11:51 am | Reply
  12. cheapseats2

    I just love the new business model known as "the cloud". Tell me all you want about how my data would be secure from unauthorized access. Maybe so (I'm still skeptical about that) but if nobody, including me, can get at my data because of DOS, that is worse.

    July 9, 2012 at 9:44 pm | Reply
    • Number1

      Any critical intellectual property should be stored offline if possible.The government gave up on trying to keep foreign actors from breaking into their computer systems. Instead, they have a new plan to limit access to sensitive information.

      July 9, 2012 at 9:59 pm | Reply
    • rob

      The cloud, first of all, is nothing more than an "old" technology dressed up as new terminology – that's it...

      "the cloud" = service = utility = a fancy way to ala carte programs and applications just to nickel and dime us to death...

      the cloud is not safe, nor secure, and I doubt highly that anyone who claims it is wont back you anyway. They will apply a loophole so thay can abandon responsibility and accountability when it comes to your financial, and or private information. They cannot 100% guarantee ANYTHING.

      if a service exists in the cloud it is ALWAYS prone to attacks by the mere fact that it exists and hackers / terrorists will seek it as a target. A hacker of any type will eventually get through. Proof of this, well just look at the last few years of cyber attacks – tethered to the fact that we have had NO great advancements in security – and by the way, government enforcing any type of policy / law does not reduce risk etc.

      Recent attacks:

      1. hackers broke into game consoles
      2. theft of credit card numbers – millions
      3. viruses with the ability to disable antivirus
      4. countless more

      The cloud is just another medium (set of railroad track) for hackers to target.

      July 9, 2012 at 10:31 pm | Reply
  13. wolf776

    I remember when this was discussed with the military about 25 years ago. They were dumbfounded that industry wasn't willing to do much to protect themselves. Big business figured the government would take care of it.

    July 9, 2012 at 9:24 pm | Reply
    • Number1

      It is hard explaining to the accounting people why 10 year old systems need to be upgraded because they can no longer be patched and were not designed to be secure at all. They only see a system that is still working, and in their minds that means it doesn't need to be replaced.

      July 9, 2012 at 9:54 pm | Reply
  14. Frontlines

    As a security engineer on the "virtual front lines" of the DOD, I can attest that what he is saying for a change is not just for budgets, polices, etc. The threat is real. VERY real!

    July 9, 2012 at 9:01 pm | Reply
  15. The Fog of a cloud

    Is this going to do something about the obama propaganda streaming of the White House ?

    July 9, 2012 at 9:00 pm | Reply
  16. compassmd

    Those of you citing Benjamin Franklin are missing the point of his original quote:

    "They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety."

    We are neither giving up an essential liberty nor receiving temporary security. Your IP is yours to give or take as you please. If your computer is not attacking government computers, it is clearly not a threat. The equivalent of you walking down a street, you are not a suspect. Neither is this temporary security. People will not one day decide to stop attacking with viruses or spam. This is indefinite security.

    I believe in internet freedom. The moment they encroach on our rights, I'll be right there with everyone here protesting, but cybersecurity and internet freedom are not opposite sides of the coin. You do not pick one or the other, just as you do not pick going on the internet without any antivirus or not at all.

    July 9, 2012 at 8:58 pm | Reply
    • rob

      here here, I second that

      July 9, 2012 at 10:51 pm | Reply
  17. goat

    "Those who would trade in their freedom for their protection deserve neither."

    -Benjamin Franklin

    July 9, 2012 at 8:40 pm | Reply
  18. Mark9988

    In other words: Increase my budget

    July 9, 2012 at 8:31 pm | Reply
  19. CMJ

    It has been said many times: when you give up freedom for security you will lose both.

    July 9, 2012 at 8:25 pm | Reply
  20. Steve-O

    BS. They can already get info on any IP address they want. They're just trying to scare people into letting them control the Internet. I'm not buying it.

    July 9, 2012 at 8:03 pm | Reply
    • Quigley

      Neither am I, Steve-O. Those idiots in Washington are the ones who started this whole thing in the first place! Just like Ronald Reagan wanted to militarize outer space, these idiots are now militarizing cyberspace!

      July 9, 2012 at 8:28 pm | Reply
      • Brandon

        Tim-There is a campground in Lusk, but last year when I steayd there the bathrooms were non-operative. They had a sign up telling tenters to use the rest area across the street. There is another place in town that allows tent camping. I have never steayd there, but you can pitch a tent behind the broasted chicken place in town.

        September 10, 2012 at 4:24 am |
  21. 22X Richer

    Keep the people scared and they'll do nothing short of beg you to take away their freedoms.

    July 9, 2012 at 7:56 pm | Reply

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