Apps found it interesting that cyber security featured prominently in last
week's confirmation hearing of Sen. John Kerry, with the next secretary of
state calling cyber threats the nuclear weapons of the 21st century. He even went so
far as to agree with Sen. Dick Durbin's (D-Ill.) labeling of cyber security as
the world's "greatest threat."
things have changed. During Condoleezza's Rice's 2005 confirmation hearing
there was nary a mention of cyber, hackers, or even the Internet. The trickle
of cyber awareness at confirmation hearings for secretaries of state and
defense began in 2006, when Robert Gates acknowledged that Chinese computer
hacking was a threat -- but he admitted that he wasn't too well versed in it. Fair
enough: the Iraq War was raging and COIN was the theme of the day. It wasn't
until 2009, with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's confirmation hearing,
that the word "cyber" was brought up.
almost certain to be cyber talk at Chuck Hagel's confirmation hearing tomorrow.
Hagelians in the Obama administration reached out to Killer Apps earlier this
month to argue that the nominee gets cyber. Stay tuned: this afternoon we'll bring you a look at how
Hagel answered advance questions on cyber that the Armed Services Committee
meantime, here's a look at what nominees have said over the last decade. Use it
as a rough, unscientific measurement to the growing cyber awareness among the
U.S. government's national security leaders.
Rice's testimony to the
Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Jan. 18, 2005:
mention of "cyber," "Internet," or "hacker."
testimony to the
Senate Armed Services Committee, Dec. 5, 2006:
term cyber wasn't specifically mentioned, Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.) asked
Gates for his take on Chinese hackers breaking into the U.S military and
defense contractor networks between 2003 and 2006 as part of the Titan Rain attacks.
Gates, admitting to being under informed about Titan Rain's details (understandably),
framed these attacks as more of an intelligence and counterintelligence
perspective rather than as one element in an entirely new combat domain -- akin
to sea, air, space and land. That would change by the end of his tenure:
I am concerned about China, and I'd like to hear what your thoughts are. Just
in the last month the Chinese hackers, as you, I'm sure, have read, have shut
down the e-mail and official computer work at the Naval War College. This is
referred to by this commission as the Titan Rain..."
sir. I have not read the reports. I would be more than willing to do so. I've
been aware, just from reading in the newspapers, it's been a number of years
since I received any classified intelligence on what the Chinese were up to.
been my impression that they've had a very aggressive intelligence-gathering
effort against the United States.
these other things that you've mentioned, this is the first time I've heard
about that. And clearly, if confirmed, this would be something that I would
want to get well-informed on."
testimony to the
Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Jan. 13, 2009:
years later, things had radically changed. Then Sen. Clinton mentioned "cyber"
in a list of weapons of mass destruction that posed "the gravest threat" to the
United States should they fall into the hands of terrorists. And she said would
reorganize the state department to handle "these new threats."
gravest threat that America faces is the danger that weapons of mass
destruction will fall into the hands of terrorists. We must curb the spread and
use of these weapons -- nuclear, biological, chemical, or cyber -- and prevent
the development and use of dangerous new weapons."
on to say:
to [traditional WMD] the growing threat of cyber terrorism, which has the
potential of disrupting the networks we rely on for all kinds of things, like
traffic signals and electric grids and the like, which would be incredibly disruptive
and dangerous -- I mean, this is the number one threat we face, there's no
doubt in my mind. So we're going to start calling it such. We're going to
reorganize the department to be better prepared to deal with nonproliferation,
arms control and these new threats."
testimony to the
Senate Armed Services Committee, June 9, 2011:
we get to Defense Secretary Leon Panetta's June 2011 confirmation hearing where
cyber security featured prominently. This was the first such hearing where the
both senators and the nominee, who was then director of the CIA, seemed to have
a fairly strong grasp of cyber security. Panetta hints at his desire to expand DOD's
cyber fighting capabilities and its role in defending U.S. critical
infrastructure from cyber attack -- something that has been one of the
hallmarks of his relatively brief tenure as defense secretary. You also get the
sense that Panetta understands that cyber is much bigger than buying the best
software and hackers -- that dealing successfully with cyber threats may mean
establishing international codes of conduct dealing with cyber war, espionage
Reed (D-RI.): "There is a whole a whole new dimension [of conflict, in addition
to land, air, sea], cyber. I don't think we know enough yet to be fully
prepared, fully conversant, but can you comment briefly on the strategy that
you will try to develop?
is no question that the whole arena of cyber attacks, developing technologies
in the information area represent potential battlefronts for the future. I have
often said that there is a strong likelihood that the next Pearl Harbor that we
confront could very well be a cyber attack that cripples our power systems, our
grid, our security systems, our financial systems, our governmental systems.
This is a
real possibility in today's world. And as a result, I think we have to
aggressively be able to counter that. It is going to take both defensive
measures as well as aggressive measures to deal with it. But most importantly,
there has to be a comprehensive approach in Government to make sure that those
attacks don't take place.
would be to work very closely with [NSA] and with others to develop not only
the capability, but also the law that I think we need to have in order to determine
how we approach this challenge in the future."
Gillibrand (D-NY): "Can you share with us any of your vision, design, goals
with regard to how we create a greater platform for cyber security and cyber
is an area of great concern for me because I think what I have witnessed at the
CIA and elsewhere is that we are now the target of increasing attacks that go
after our systems, and it is extremely important for us to do everything we can
to confront that threat.
on to say: "What I would like to do is to develop an even more effective force
to be able to confront cyber terrorism, and I would like to work with you on
the effort to try to develop those kinds of relationship not only here, but
abroad, so that other countries can work with us in this effort. We talk about
nuclear. We talk about conventional warfare. We don't spend enough time talking
about the threat of cyber war."
Stuster contributed to this report.