Five things you need to know about U.S. national security
Credit (l to r): Getty Images, Getty Images, SITE, Getty Images, CNN
July 29th, 2012
06:00 AM ET

Five things you need to know about U.S. national security

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.

According to Olsen, there is an intense focus on Syria’s chemical weapons. FULL POST

NSA wants to hire hackers
July 28th, 2012
12:00 PM ET

NSA wants to hire hackers

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.


Filed under: Cybersecurity • Intelligence • NSA
July 26th, 2012
10:07 PM ET

Cyber Command chief flunks US in readiness to deal with cyber attacks

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."

America's next war
July 26th, 2012
06:20 AM ET

America's next war

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.

RECOMMENDED: Our coverage of the 2012 Aspen Security Forum

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."


July 19th, 2012
02:43 AM ET

Cyberspy program targets victims in Iran, Israel, companies say

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.


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Filed under: Cybersecurity • Iran • Israel • Middle East
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. FULL POST

July 4th, 2012
04:11 PM ET

Homeland security cites sharp rise in cyber attacks

by Suzanne Kelly

The companies that control critical infrastructure in the United States are reporting higher numbers of attacks on their systems over the past three years, according to a report issued by the Department of Homeland Security.

The Industrial Control Systems Cyber Emergency Response Team (ICS-CERT) says the number of reported attacks is up and attackers have been targeting companies with access to the country's power grid, water filtration facilities and a nuclear facility.

According to the report, which was released last week, there were 198 incidents reported to DHS in 2011, up from nine incidents in 2009. Cyber emergency response teams went to the physical locations to investigate and further analyze the threats in 17 of the 198 cases in 2011.

The most common threat was a technique known as spear-phishing, which can corrupt a company's computer system by uploading malicious attachments and gaining access to sensitive information. Eleven of the 17 incidents to which the emergency response teams physically responded were attacks that had been launched by "sophisticated actors," the report said. FULL POST

Filed under: Cybersecurity • Homeland Security • Nuclear • Spying
June 20th, 2012
06:01 PM ET

Doing battle in cyber

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.

Filed under: Cybersecurity • Flame • Intelligence • Iran • Malware • Security Brief • Stuxnet
Opinion:  Obama leak 'scandal' is wildly overblown
June 20th, 2012
12:32 PM ET

Opinion: Obama leak 'scandal' is wildly overblown

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

June 13th, 2012
08:06 PM ET

Cyber hack attack demo

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.

Filed under: Cybersecurity • Homeland Security
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