Risk
7/30/2010
02:54 PM
50%
50%

Former NSA, CIA Director Says Intelligence-Gathering Isn't Cyberwar

Efforts to crack U.S. cyberdefenses are standard operating procedure, Hayden tells Black Hat audience

LAS VEGAS, NEVADA -- Black Hat USA 2010 -- There's a difference between the gathering of foreign intelligence -- the spy game -- and outright cyberwarfare, a former CIA director told an audience here yesterday.

Click here for more of Dark Reading's Black Hat articles.

Gen. Michael Hayden, who has served as the director of the National Security Agency and the Central Intelligence Agency, offered some insight into the government's views on cyberwarfare in a keynote address at Black Hat. His comments ran contrary to some current and former government officials, who have stated that the U.S. is already engaged in cyberwar.

"When it comes to the question of what is cyberwar, we've been thinking a lot about it, but not very clearly," Hayden said. "I think we've gotten a little sloppy with the language."

Hayden, who is also a former Air Force general, offered some perspective on how military and intelligence leaders view the parameters of cyberwar.

"Cyber is a domain, just as land, sea, air, and space are domains," Hayden said. "God made those four domains; you made the fifth one. God did a better job."

Just as campaigns in the natural domains are conducted by the Army, Navy, and Air Force, the new U.S. Cyber Command will conduct campaigns in cyberspace, Hayden said. But all conflict between nation-states in cyberspace is not warfare, he suggested.

Hayden described "cyber network operations" as a triangle with defense on one corner, attack on another corner, and "exploitation" on a third corner. Exploitation, as he defined it, is the use of cybersecurity technology to extract information from foreign powers.

"In the intelligence community, we don't call that cyberwar," Hayden said. "That's espionage. States do that all the time, and they are not at war." In fact, Hayden praised the efforts of the Chinese government to apply cyber tactics to intelligence gathering. "I stand in awe of the Chinese cyber effort," he said. "It is magnificent."

In the physical world, intelligence-gathering is easier than attack, Hayden said. But in the cyberworld, intelligence gathering is the hard part. "An attack is sudden and easily detected," he observed. "The difficult part in cyber is establishing ways of collecting data silently, without being detected, for a long period of time."

Most of the rules regarding cyberdefense and online intelligence-gathering "are fairly well-established," Hayden said. "But with attack, we're still figuring out the rules. In fact, today about 90 percent of what we're thinking about is attack. But about 90 percent of what we're doing is defense."

One of the biggest questions in cyberspace is who will set the rules of war, Hayden suggested. While the U.S. has its own domestic rules for what can and can't be done online, other countries have their own rules, and there isn't yet an international body whose authority is recognized to govern the use of cyber methods in intelligence or warfare.

The world's most advanced nations should get together and set some rules of engagement that would help prevent the misuse of cyber tactics between nation-states, Hayden said.

"We could set rules that say denial-of-service attacks will never be allowed or excused," he said. "We should agree that some domains are off limits -- such as the power grid or the financial system -- just as we've agreed not to use chemical weapons."

Hayden recognized that such agreements wouldn't prevent terrorists or other states from using such cyberwar tactics, "but if you could get the leading states to limit what they do, the truly malevolent activity would be easier to detect and deal with."

Governments must be careful to evaluate the potential impact of cyberwarfare, just as they are with nuclear weapons, Hayden said.

"Collateral damage is always a consideration," he said. "You have to ask, if you do this, are the lights still going to be on on the Eastern Seaboard?" While cyberwarfare may seem less life-threatening than conventional warfare, Hayden said, "we need to be careful that cyber weapons don't become the special weapons of the 21st century."

Have a comment on this story? Please click "Discuss" below. If you'd like to contact Dark Reading's editors directly, send us a message.

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
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
White Papers
Cartoon
Current Issue
Flash Poll
Video
Slideshows
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
CVE-2013-7421
Published: 2015-03-02
The Crypto API in the Linux kernel before 3.18.5 allows local users to load arbitrary kernel modules via a bind system call for an AF_ALG socket with a module name in the salg_name field, a different vulnerability than CVE-2014-9644.

CVE-2014-8160
Published: 2015-03-02
net/netfilter/nf_conntrack_proto_generic.c in the Linux kernel before 3.18 generates incorrect conntrack entries during handling of certain iptables rule sets for the SCTP, DCCP, GRE, and UDP-Lite protocols, which allows remote attackers to bypass intended access restrictions via packets with disall...

CVE-2014-9644
Published: 2015-03-02
The Crypto API in the Linux kernel before 3.18.5 allows local users to load arbitrary kernel modules via a bind system call for an AF_ALG socket with a parenthesized module template expression in the salg_name field, as demonstrated by the vfat(aes) expression, a different vulnerability than CVE-201...

CVE-2015-0239
Published: 2015-03-02
The em_sysenter function in arch/x86/kvm/emulate.c in the Linux kernel before 3.18.5, when the guest OS lacks SYSENTER MSR initialization, allows guest OS users to gain guest OS privileges or cause a denial of service (guest OS crash) by triggering use of a 16-bit code segment for emulation of a SYS...

CVE-2014-8921
Published: 2015-03-01
The IBM Notes Traveler Companion application 1.0 and 1.1 before 201411010515 for Window Phone, as distributed in IBM Notes Traveler 9.0.1, does not properly restrict the number of executions of the automatic configuration option, which makes it easier for remote attackers to capture credentials by c...

Dark Reading Radio
Archived Dark Reading Radio
How can security professionals better engage with their peers, both in person and online? In this Dark Reading Radio show, we will talk to leaders at some of the security industry’s professional organizations about how security pros can get more involved – with their colleagues in the same industry, with their peers in other industries, and with the IT security community as a whole.