Government // Cybersecurity
6/26/2014
09:10 AM
Tim Wilson
Tim Wilson
Quick Hits
50%
50%

Alexander: Cyber Security Pros Face Uphill Battle

Former NSA chief says rapid growth of data, malware will challenge security teams in coming years.

WASHINGTON -- Gartner Security & Risk Management Summit 2014 -- Former National Security Agency Director Keith Alexander says security professionals have their work cut out for them in the days ahead.

Shedding his customary uniform for an everyday suit and tie, the former general -- who retired last month and is now hanging out a shingle as a security consultant -- offered a wide range of views in a keynote presentation here. The gist: Data and malware are growing at rates so fast that it will be difficult for any security organization to keep up.

"In the coming year, it's estimated that we will create approximately 3.5 zetabytes of unique data -- that's more information than humans have produced in the last 5,000 years combined," Alexander said. "New technology is doubling every year. The top ten most in-demand jobs in 2013 were all jobs that didn't exist in 2004.

"So what we're doing right now is preparing students for jobs that don't yet exist, using technology that hasn't yet been invented, and facing problems that we don't know about yet. It's a huge challenge," he said.

At the same time, malware is growing at a corresponding rate, the former NSA director said. He recalled a recent partnership between the NSA and the Department of Defense in which the organizations uncovered 1,500 pieces of malware on US secret networks.

"What causes me the greatest concern is what might happen if our nation was hit by a destructive cyber attack," Alexander said, noting that most of the country's critical networks are operated by private industry. "If [a destructive attack] hit one of our Wall Street banks, the monetary damage could be in the trillions of dollars. We're not ready." He called for more cooperation across agencies, and across government and private industry.

Not surprisingly, Alexander also condemned recent "media leaks" -- he never mentioned Edward Snowden by name -- and said that they have contributed to recent physical attacks and an increase in deaths in places such as Iraq and Afghanistan. "The situation isn't getting better, it's getting worse," he said.

Even less surprisingly, Alexander defended the actions of the NSA in its intelligence-gathering and surveillance activities. He pointed to three recent investigations -- including one headed by ACLU investigator Jeff Stone -- which all indicate that the NSA is acting according to law.

"The NSA is not authorized to do something without a court order describing how to do it," Alexander said. "If you have a problem with what the NSA is doing, it's probably not with the NSA itself, but with what they've been asked to do."

 

Tim Wilson is Editor in Chief and co-founder of Dark Reading.com, UBM Tech's online community for information security professionals. He is responsible for managing the site, assigning and editing content, and writing breaking news stories. Wilson has been recognized as one ... View Full Bio

Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Comments
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
Kelly Jackson Higgins
50%
50%
Kelly Jackson Higgins,
User Rank: Strategist
6/26/2014 | 4:52:56 PM
what a difference a year makes
Hard to believe it was nearly a year ago that Gen. Alexander delivered the keynote at Black Hat while director of the NSA. It will be interesting to see if he comes to BH or DEF CON again. It's interesting to see him in a new role.
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
White Papers
Cartoon
Current Issue
Flash Poll
10 Recommendations for Outsourcing Security
10 Recommendations for Outsourcing Security
Enterprises today have a wide range of third-party options to help improve their defenses, including MSSPs, auditing and penetration testing, and DDoS protection. But are there situations in which a service provider might actually increase risk?
Video
Slideshows
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
CVE-2012-2808
Published: 2015-04-01
The PRNG implementation in the DNS resolver in Bionic in Android before 4.1.1 incorrectly uses time and PID information during the generation of random numbers for query ID values and UDP source ports, which makes it easier for remote attackers to spoof DNS responses by guessing these numbers, a rel...

CVE-2014-9713
Published: 2015-04-01
The default slapd configuration in the Debian openldap package 2.4.23-3 through 2.4.39-1.1 allows remote authenticated users to modify the user's permissions and other user attributes via unspecified vectors.

CVE-2015-0259
Published: 2015-04-01
OpenStack Compute (Nova) before 2014.1.4, 2014.2.x before 2014.2.3, and kilo before kilo-3 does not validate the origin of websocket requests, which allows remote attackers to hijack the authentication of users for access to consoles via a crafted webpage.

CVE-2015-0800
Published: 2015-04-01
The PRNG implementation in the DNS resolver in Mozilla Firefox (aka Fennec) before 37.0 on Android does not properly generate random numbers for query ID values and UDP source ports, which makes it easier for remote attackers to spoof DNS responses by guessing these numbers, a related issue to CVE-2...

CVE-2015-0801
Published: 2015-04-01
Mozilla Firefox before 37.0, Firefox ESR 31.x before 31.6, and Thunderbird before 31.6 allow remote attackers to bypass the Same Origin Policy and execute arbitrary JavaScript code with chrome privileges via vectors involving anchor navigation, a similar issue to CVE-2015-0818.

Dark Reading Radio
Archived Dark Reading Radio
Good hackers--aka security researchers--are worried about the possible legal and professional ramifications of President Obama's new proposed crackdown on cyber criminals.