Cyber threat cannot be eliminated, says US intel chief James Clapper

James Clapper listed out Russia and China as the two major countries posing a threat to US cyber world.

Cyber threat cannot be eliminated, says US intel chief James Clapper
WASHINGTON: Chinese cyber espionage continues to target a broad spectrum of US interests, including national security information, sensitive economic data and intellectual property, America's spy chief today.

Appearing before the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, Clapper listed out Russia and China as the two major countries posing a threat to US cyber world.

Iran and North Korea are other countries posing challenge to the cyber system in the United States.

"Chinese cyber espionage continues to target a broad spectrum of US interests, ranging from national security information to sensitive economic data and US intellectual property," he said in his prepared remarks.

"Although China is an advanced cyber actor in terms of capabilities, Chinese hackers are often able to gain access to their targets without having to resort to using advanced capabilities.

"Improved US cybersecurity would complicate Chinese cyber espionage activities by addressing the less sophisticated threats, and raising the cost and risk if China persists," he said.

Clapper said Russia's Ministry of Defence was establishing a cyber command, which--according to senior Russian military officials--will be responsible for conducting offensive cyber activities, including propaganda operations and inserting malware into enemy command and control systems.

"Russia's armed forces are also establishing a specialised branch for computer network operations. Computer security studies assert that Russian cyber actors are developing means to remotely access industrial control systems (ICS) used to manage critical infrastructures," he added.

"Unknown Russian actors successfully compromised the product supply chains of at least three ICS vendors so that customers downloaded malicious software ("malware") designed to facilitate exploitation directly from the vendors' websites along with legitimate software updates, according to private sector cyber security experts," said the spy master.

Clapper said terrorist groups will continue to experiment with hacking, which could serve as the foundation for developing more advanced capabilities.

Terrorist sympathizers will probably conduct low-level cyber attacks on behalf of terrorist groups and attract attention of the media, which might exaggerate the capabilities and threat posed by these actors.

"With respect to ISIL, since last summer, the group began executing a highly strategic social media campaign using a diverse array of platforms and thousands of online supporters around the globe.

"The group quickly builds expertise in the platforms it uses and often leverages multiple tools within each platform," he said.

"ISIL and its adherents' adept use of social media allows the group to maximize the spread of its propaganda and reach out to potential recruits," he added.

Clapper said the breadth of cyber threats posed to US national and economic security has become increasing diverse, sophisticated, and impactful.

"Cyber Intelligence--collecting, analyzing, and disseminating intelligence on the intentions, capabilities, and operational activities of foreign cyber actors--is one of the core objectives in National Intelligence Strategy we produced last year to guide the activities of the Intelligence Community," he said.

"Ensuring the integration of such activities in support of our policy makers and national security is a core mission for the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, and was one reason the President directed me to form a Cyber Threat Intelligence Integration Center (CTIIC)," Clapper said.

He acknowledged that threats to the cyber world emanating from foreign countries and also non-state actors can't be eliminated and there is need to manage the risk.

"In short, the cyber threat cannot be eliminated; rather, cyber risk must be managed. Moreover, the risk calculus some private sector entities employ does not adequately account for foreign cyber threats or the systemic interdependencies between different critical infrastructure sectors," James R Clapper, Director of National Intelligence told lawmakers during a Congressional hearing.
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