By Dan Merica
This weekend marks the conclusion of this year’s Aspen Security Forum in Aspen, Colorado, an event that brought together some of the key players in the world of defense and national security policy.
Here the five moments that the Security Clearance Blog’s team will be talking about on the flight back to Washington:
1. The United States is keeping close tabs on Syria’s weapons, al Qaeda’s influence
As war rages on in Syria, the United States intelligence community is closely monitoring the situation, National Counterterrorism Center Director Matthew Olsen told CNN’s Intelligence Correspondent Suzanne Kelly.
Wearing a t-shirt and jeans, America's top spymaster - National Security Agency Director Gen. Keith Alexander, also the head of the U.S. Cyber Command - took the stage Friday at the nation's largest hacker convention to deliver a recruiting pitch.
"In this room, this room right here, is the talent our nation needs to secure cyberspace," Alexander told the standing-room-only audience at DefCon, a grassroots gathering in Las Vegas expected to draw a record 16,000 attendees this year. "We need great talent. We don't pay as high as everybody else, but we're fun to be around."
Print CommentAlexander's appearance is a milestone for DefCon, a hacker mecca with an often-uneasy relationship with the feds. DefCon is the older, wilder and far less official sibling of BlackHat, a cybersecurity conference that wrapped up Thursday in Las Vegas.
BlackHat draws corporate infosecurity workers in suits. At DefCon, they switch to t-shirts and spend the weekend mingling with cryptographers, script kiddies, security researchers and a liberal smattering of military and law enforcement agents - both in and out of uniform.
By Larry Shaughnessy
Since 2009, online attacks that could destroy key infrastructure in the U.S. have skyrocketed. And the man in charge of cyber defense gave the national a failing grade in being prepared.
Gen. Keith Alexander is director of the National Security Agency and commander of U.S. Cyber Command. He spoke Thursday at the Aspen Security Forum in Colorado about cyber threats from around the world.
When asked by moderator Pete Williams of NBC how well-prepared, on a scale of 1-10, the U.S. is for a serious cyber attack on a critical part of our infrastructure, Alexander said, "From my perspective I'd say around a 3."
By Jill Dougherty, reporting from Aspen, Colorado
National security experts often refer to the core of al Qaeda as a “spent force.” Its leaders are mostly wiped out even if al Qaeda affiliates in places like Yemen continue their fight against the West. But if al Qaeda is a spent force will the U.S. military go back to the old paradigm of preparing for conflict with nation states?
That’s one of the underlying themes of the Aspen Security Forum. I spoke with author and academic Paula Broadwell, a veteran of 15 years in intelligence, counterterrorism and counterinsurgency.
The U.S. must be prepared for “full spectrum warfare,” she says. That's everything from a full-on war to smaller conflicts.
“Nobody thinks these small wars or these insurgencies are going away,” Broadwell tells me. “The way we’ll fight them is changing, and instead of sending a large army to fight an insurgency I think we’ll see more precision strikes, more special forces response, more drone operations, and more cooperation with our allies."
By Ben Brumfield
A computer virus campaign has for months been selectively spying on people involved in government and in strategically important industries principally in Iran - but also in Israel and other countries in the Middle East, according to two cybersecurity companies, which cooperated to track the campaign.
The virus, a Trojan horse with an "amateurish" design, contains lines of Farsi, or Persian, the main language spoken in Iran, Seculert and Kaspersky Lab said in news releases Tuesday. It communicates with "command and control" servers, which also contain code in Farsi and dates from the Persian calendar, they said.
"The attackers were no doubt fluent in this language," said Aviv Raff, Seculert's chief technology officer.
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. FULL POST
It's the largest, most extensive cyber espionage tool to date.
Researchers say the computer virus dubbed Flame stole secrets on Iran's nuclear program and it likely went on for years, discovered only after a cyberattack on Iran's oil infrastructure.
Now The Washington Post cites "western officials with knowledge of the effort" as saying Flame was jointly-developed between the United States and Israel.
Intelligence Correspondent Suzanne Kelly reports on U.S. strategy in going to battle in cyberspace.
With all the accusations and demands for investigations over national security leaks, CNN national security analyst Peter Bergen considers how much did the leaks really hurt U.S.
After all, Bergen notes on CNN's Opinion section, when it comes to revelations about how U.S. and Israel planted the Stuxnet virus, the Iranians know that their problems with the centrifuges at Natanz are caused by cyberattacks and have publicly said so for the past two years.
Another story that has critics of the Obama administration steamed is that it has allowed to become public that the president personally approves "kill lists" for CIA drone strikes in Pakistan and Yemen. Perhaps these concerns are also overblown, Bergen writes: FULL POST
CNN Intelligence Correspondent Suzanne Kelly gets an inside look at the most common form of cyber attack at a demonstration by the Department of Homeland Security.