The Growing Cyber Threat

The “frequency, scale, sophistication, and severity” of cyber attacks against the United States are increasing from “profit-motivated criminals, ideologically motivated hackers or extremists, and variously capable nation states like Russia, China, North Korea, and Iran,” said James Clapper, director of national intelligence, during testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee on Thursday. This is a trend that will not only continue, but likely expand in “diversity and intensity on a daily basis,” said Clapper, who noted that the Russian cyber threat “is more severe than we have previously assessed” and China continues to conduct “economic espionage” against US companies. Although Iran and North Korea do not have the same cyber capabilities as Russia and China, the Iranian attack against the Las Vegas Sands Casino Corporation and the North Korean attack against Sony last year demonstrated that both countries are “motivated and unpredictable cyber actors,” added Clapper. In addition non-nation state entitites, such as the ISIS supporters that successfully hacked the US Central Command Twitter and YouTube page in January, also pose a threat. “In the end, the cyber threat cannot be completely eliminated,” said Clapper. But, “We must be vigilant in our efforts to detect, manage, and defend against [it].” (See also White House Announces Cyber Security Initiatives.)