Director of National Intelligence (DNI) Avril Haines was interviewed by Michele Flournoy, co-founder and managing partner of WestExec Advisors and former Undersecretary of Defense for Policy, on day one of the RSA 2022 conference. challenges and malicious actors proliferate, the US Intelligence Community (IC) is committed to protecting the nation by working with industry and international partners to rethink how we collaborate and design networks and the cybersecurity that protects them . Here are some key takeaways from DNI Haines’ remarks:
1. Cybersecurity highlights tensions with key distinctions in our world
Cybersecurity highlights the tensions between different IC rules for domestic and foreign collections. We need to put together a threat picture that looks across the foreign/domestic threat space to collect on foreign adversaries operating in the United States
We have different legal regimes in times of conflict than in times of peace. Do we need a Geneva Convention for cybersecurity? It is important to start developing the cyber rules of the road now before a situation leads to the use of force or armed conflict.
The public-private distinction is one of the preeminent issues in cybersecurity. Because so much of our country’s critical infrastructure is privately owned, this impacts the ability of the US government to protect it. The US government must work intensely with the private sector to address the threats we face as a nation.
2. Cybersecurity is getting harder
We still haven’t figured out how to prevent the intrusion of even sophisticated networks. The IC is not a shield but provides a warning so others can act to the extent they can. With cybersecurity, one of the challenges is how do you build risk of failure into your systemic design? We understand that we cannot create a perfect defense.
Each year, the DNI’s Annual Threat Assessment focuses on nation-state actors as the primary adversarial threats. However, we are seeing an expansion of transnational criminal threats. Commercially available tools have extended the possibility of hacking to other malicious actors.
Cybersecurity also highlights the challenge of protecting privacy and civil liberties. There is an increasing amount of sensitive personal data available (especially in the pandemic era). Data brokers proliferate as they collect and share personal information, making it more difficult to maintain confidentiality.
3. Partnerships are essential
The IC has significantly improved its public-private partnerships, but there is still a lot of work to be done. Currently, IC is focused on ensuring the best collection to effectively provide the private sector with the threat landscape. A key aspect of partnering with the private sector is the IC’s ability to provide information to victimized businesses and they are working to develop mechanisms to do this in real time. The IC is increasingly calling on private sector companies to do analytical work together, compare notes and share information.
4. The amount of information declassified and shared regarding the Russian invasion of Ukraine was unprecedented
There was a healthy dose of skepticism in the fall when the IC began to warn of an imminent Russian invasion of Ukraine. The IC worked diligently to quickly declassify intelligence information to prevent Putin from creating a false narrative. The degree of information sharing is extraordinary.
The IC previously attributed the cyberattacks against Ukrainian command and control functions, websites and emergency response functions to Russia, but did not see the level or scope of the planned cyberattacks.
5. Cyber Talent Pitch to Join IC
IC focuses on recruiting cyber talent from the private sector. For the privilege of having the opportunity to serve your country, CI cyber talents get great stories at the end of the day and the ability to make a productive contribution to making the community a better place.
Diversity of thought, experience and perspective is essential for the US government at this time. IC needs new cyber talents to think differently and make things happen. Working for the IC is intellectually challenging and the mission is critical to the national security of the United States.