On April 28, the American Security Project hosted an event entitled “Evaluating Cyber Warfare and Espionage,” featuring three ASP Consensus for American Security members. The Honorable Manisha Singh, former assistant secretary of state for economic and business affairs, moderated a discussion with Guillermo Christensen, a former diplomat and CIA intelligence officer, and Glenn S. Gerstell, former General Counsel of the National Security Agency. The distinguished panel discussed cyber warfare and cyber espionage threats to the public and private sectors.
Since the digital revolution, risks and vulnerabilities in the digital realm have increased exponentially. Participants were asked for their assessment of the most pressing cyber security threats. Gerstell opened by stating that the sophistication of our adversaries, the availability of cheap and easy to access technology, and the inherent exposure of targets due to our interconnectivity contribute to our overall vulnerability. Government agencies and the private sector present an attractive set of targets, and sophisticated adversaries, ranging from nation-states to hacker gangs, are going after them on the vulnerability side.
Christensen pivoted the discussion to address Russian aggression on the cyber front. While the long-term prospects in this risk area are concerning because we are continuously adding to the long list of vulnerabilities, he advised vigilance rather than panic in considering the cyber threat from Russia. Adding it is crucial to distinguish between two general areas of risk: cybercrime and cyberwar.
Panelists addressed how the government could better work with the private sector to shore up our defenses. Noting that there is no “home versus away” and that “we’re all vulnerable around the world,” the panel discussed how to do more with allies worldwide, especially with Europeans, in defend forward and proactive defense. The group also explored the mandate and mission of the new State Department Bureau of Cyber Space and Digital Policy and how this new bureau could be used to build a strong alliance of countries that think about these issues the same way that we do.
The conversation closed, focusing on moving forward and how the average consumer should think about cyberwarfare. Both Christensen and Gerstell favor a healthy sense of paranoia given the unknown nature of cyber-attacks.