1 July 2015

GEOINT 2015: Intel chief wants decisive cyber response

Amber Corrin
June 25, 2015

The recent data breach at the Office of Personnel Management underscores a much bigger problem facing federal cybersecurity, according to the head of U.S. intelligence.

A day after ADM Mike Rogers, NSA director and head of Cyber Command, declined to pin the blame of the OPM hack on China, the director of national intelligence directly called out China as "the leading suspect" behind the theft of more than 4 million U.S. personnel records.

"On the one hand — please don't take this the wrong way — you've got to salute the Chinese for what they did," DNI James Clapper said, calling on U.S. policymakers to sharpen consequences for incidents like the OPM breach. "If we had the opportunity to do that, I don't think we'd hesitate for a minute."

Such attacks are not likely to stop without increased intervention, he said.

"Until such time as we can create both the substance and psychology of deterrence, this is going to go on … What we must do in the meantime is pay more attention to defense."

Clapper spoke at GEOINT 2015 in Washington on June 25.

Finding the best response to these attacks has been a sticking point for U.S. decision-makers, Clapper suggested. While military leaders in the cyber domain have made clear the U.S. possesses cyber capabilities to retaliate, it does not appear those capabilities have been used.

"That has been a struggle for us because of concerns about unintended consequences," Clapper said, emphasizing the need to further develop methods of deterrence in cyberspace while also focusing on improving defenses.

Clapper also expressed concern about Russian cyber capabilities, noting that Russia "is a lot more subtle about this" than the Chinese.

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