The United States has fought on land, at sea, and in the air, but America’s new security challenges are in cyberspace. We’ve entered an era of digital war and espionage. Joel Brenner, former inspector general at the National Security Agency, has much to say about what needs to happen if we are to be protected from cyber intrusions.
The Internet Wasn’t Created With Security in Mind
Brenner points out that the Internet was originally designed for a small group of people in universities, government, and research institutions to communicate and collaborate. Even as late as a decade ago, he says, the commercial uses of the Internet were pretty trivial. “we’ve taken that network which was designed to be used by a small group of people, which was not built with security in mind, and we’ve turned it into the backbone of all of our commerce, all of our finance, and virtually now all of our operations from air traffic control to manufacturing. Things are connected to that Internet. It’s porous and it’s insecure,” he says.
Brenner: “We’ve seen the Chinese attempting to really go after the crowned jewels of American industry. The  Google attack was a watershed. Another watershed even more recently after I left the government was the attack on RSA, which is the encryption company. Stealing an encryption key or the algorithms that make those keys work isn’t like stealing information. It’s like stealing the way into the information in lots of different places. This has made an awful lot of people wake up to what their vulnerabilities are.”
Idea of Cyber-war “Overhyped”
Brenner: “I think the notion of standalone cyber war is overhyped. I think that on the other hand there’s no question in my mind that there is no future conflict that will not have significant cyber operations as part of it.”
Management Problems Versus Technological Problems
Brenner says that many private companies looking at cybersecurity think they’re having technological problems, but they are really having management problems. “Failing to implement available technology is not a technological problem, it’s a management problem. If you don’t know who’s on your network and you don’t know what hardware and sortware are on your network, and you let all kinds of unauthorized and often suspect hardware and software connect to your network and you don’t know what traffic’s going through your network, you don’t control your own network.”
You can read the full transcript here.
Read an Excerpt
Excerpted from Joel Brenner’s “America The Vulnerable: Inside the New Threat Matrix of Digital Espionage, Crime, and Warfare.” Copyright 2011 by Joel Brenner. Excerpted by permission of Penguin Press HC.