Is America Outgunned in Cyber?

Shaun Henry, the FBIs top cyber cop and executive assistant director responsible for cyber, told the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) that we're not winning and that the current approaches being used by the public and private sectors are: "Unsustainable. Computer criminals are simply too good and defensive measures too weak to stop them."

by / March 28, 2012 0

Shaun Henry, the FBI’s top cyber cop and executive assistant director responsible for cyber, told the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) that “we’re not winning” and that the current approaches being used by the public and private sectors are:  “… Unsustainable. Computer criminals are simply too good and defensive measures too weak to stop them.”

 The WSJ article entitled: U.S. Outgunned in Cyber War also reported that Henry said:

  “"I don't see how we ever come out of this without changes in technology or changes in behavior, because with the status quo, it's an unsustainable model. Unsustainable in that you never get ahead, never become secure, never have a reasonable expectation of privacy or security…

We have found their [company] data in the middle of other investigations. They are shocked and, in many cases, they've been breached for many months, in some cases years, which means that an adversary had full visibility into everything occurring on that network, potentially….''

Meanwhile, other leading experts are sounding similar alarms. Richard Clark, former cybersecurity and cyberterrorism advisor to the White House, testified that “your government has failed you. Every major company in the United States has already been penetrated by China."

In an interview with the, Richard Clark goes further:

“I think we’re living in the world of non-response. Where you know that there’s a problem, but you don’t do anything about it. If that’s denial, then that’s denial….

My greatest fear is that, rather than having a cyber-Pearl Harbor event, we will instead have this death of a thousand cuts. Where we lose our competitiveness by having all of our research and development stolen by the Chinese. And we never really see the single event that makes us do something about it. That it’s always just below our pain threshold. That company after company in the United States spends millions, hundreds of millions, in some cases billions of dollars on R&D and that information goes free to China....After a while you can’t compete.”

Finally, the National Security Agency (NSA) chief, General Keith Alexander told U.S. Senators that that the Chinese were behind the RSA attacks last year.

“The attack against RSA, in which the attacker conducted a spearphishing campaign that sent disguised emails containing malware that installed backdoors via a zero-day Adobe Flash exploit, indicates a high level of sophistication by China's hackers, according to Alexander. ‘The ability to do it against a company like RSA is such a high-order capability that, if they can do it against RSA, that makes other companies vulnerable,’ he said.

… The NSA director admitted that the government needed more real-time capabilities to work with private sector organizations to stop cyber attacks, and perhaps more authority to take action. He cited an attack in which an "adversary" was attempting to exfiltrate 3 gigabytes of data from a defense contractor in a foreign country, and DOD processes for communicating with that company were too manual.”

 Taken together these quotes tell a pretty scary security story. I don't (generally) like to spread cyber fear, but these latest headlines and interviews are even a level worse than what I've seen in the past. Clearly, we need to adapt to the new global cyber attack environment.

Any response?


Dan Lohrmann Chief Security Officer & Chief Strategist at Security Mentor Inc.

Daniel J. Lohrmann is an internationally recognized cybersecurity leader, technologist, keynote speaker and author.

During his distinguished career, he has served global organizations in the public and private sectors in a variety of executive leadership capacities, receiving numerous national awards including: CSO of the Year, Public Official of the Year and Computerworld Premier 100 IT Leader.
Lohrmann led Michigan government’s cybersecurity and technology infrastructure teams from May 2002 to August 2014, including enterprisewide Chief Security Officer (CSO), Chief Technology Officer (CTO) and Chief Information Security Officer (CISO) roles in Michigan.

He currently serves as the Chief Security Officer (CSO) and Chief Strategist for Security Mentor Inc. He is leading the development and implementation of Security Mentor’s industry-leading cyber training, consulting and workshops for end users, managers and executives in the public and private sectors. He has advised senior leaders at the White House, National Governors Association (NGA), National Association of State CIOs (NASCIO), U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), federal, state and local government agencies, Fortune 500 companies, small businesses and nonprofit institutions.

He has more than 30 years of experience in the computer industry, beginning his career with the National Security Agency. He worked for three years in England as a senior network engineer for Lockheed Martin (formerly Loral Aerospace) and for four years as a technical director for ManTech International in a US/UK military facility.

Lohrmann is the author of two books: Virtual Integrity: Faithfully Navigating the Brave New Web and BYOD for You: The Guide to Bring Your Own Device to Work. He has been a keynote speaker at global security and technology conferences from South Africa to Dubai and from Washington, D.C., to Moscow.

He holds a master's degree in computer science (CS) from Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, and a bachelor's degree in CS from Valparaiso University in Indiana.

Follow Lohrmann on Twitter at: @govcso