21 May 2017

Experts: US must project its cyber warfare capabilities to deter Russian threat


The United States must demonstrate its cyber warfare capabilities to help deter sophisticated attacks from Russia and other adversaries while building strategies on a battlefield still misunderstood by commanders and senior officials, a panel of defense experts told lawmakers Thursday.

“Cyber operations are a legitimate means of projecting national power, especially when proportionately supplemented by kinetic force, and we should advertise them accordingly,” retired Navy Adm. James Stavridis, the former leader of European Command, told the Senate Armed Services Committee in prepared remarks.

Russia, North Korea, China and other nations launch sophisticated attacks against the United States, including attempts to destroy infrastructure and undermine credibility of elections in America and France, Stavridis said. And the United States is often sheepish to strike back in shows of force, he added.

“Unwillingness to operate offensively in cyberspace is driven less by a fear of retaliation and more by a fear of compromising our intelligence community’s sensitive tradecraft,” he said.

Retired Air Force Gen. Michael Hayden, former director of the CIA, said there is still a lack of consensus in the United States and the international community about what kinds of attacks warrant a response, and outdated thinking still suggests cyber assaults require an in-kind digital response, when other measures, such as conventional military strikes or sanctions, might be more appropriate.

Former Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper, Jr. gestures as he testifies at a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on Cyber Policy, Strategy, and Organization, May 11, 2017, on Capitol Hill.

“One way to recognize practice is to practice,” Hayden said.

In response to Russian election interference for example, the United States could have disrupted bank accounts linked to Russian oligarchs and revealed the extent of President Vladimir Putin’s finances and property, Stavridis said.

Recent protests have rocked Russia following allegations of embezzlement by Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, and overt jabs over the wealth of Russian leaders would undermine the government there, he said.

Crippling intelligence-gathering networks would also restrict Putin’s ability to surveil his own people, Hayden said, at a crucial time when he seeks to squash dissent.

James Clapper, former director of national intelligence, stressed throughout the hearing about shortfalls within the government to anticipate the response of adversaries once cyber operations are launched.

“We can’t count on equal or symmetrical retaliation,” he said.

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., the committee’s chairman, opened his remarks for the hearing with a quip signaling his frustration with a lack of vision and cohesion in cyber operations in the military and intelligence communities.

No comments: