Nation States Pose Most Acute Cyber Threat

The gravest online security threat to the United States comes not from terrorists, but rather from other nation states, said Daniel Benjamin, State Department counterterrorism coordinator, Tuesday. “The cyber threat is growing, but it is not, first and foremost, right now, a terrorism threat—it is a state-on-state threat,” Benjamin underscored during a press roundtable in Washington, D.C. The fact that the most serious attacks to date have all been state-on-state, or “small groups” not associated with terrorist organizations, however, does not mean that the United States is ignoring the potential development of cyber-terrorism. “I think we have to go on the assumption that [terrorists] will try to exploit it, just as they tried to move into [weapons of mass destruction],” said Benjamin. “At the moment, we’re not there yet. The critical drivers of the threat are elsewhere.” Online terrorists concentrate on propaganda and recruiting, said Benjamin. This is why the State Department’s counterterrorism efforts focus on “presenting a counter-extremist view,” rather than counter-hacking or service disruption, he said.