Former CIA and NSA Director Cautions Vulnerabilities of Cyber Domain During AAPEX Address

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Retired Four-Star General Michael Hayden took center stage during the AAPEX General Session on Nov. 2, reinforcing both the empowerment of the cyber domain, as well as its vulnerabilities. Hayden is former director of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and the National Security Agency (NSA) and has been on the frontline of global change, the war on terrorism and the growing cyber challenge.

General Hayden reminded the AAPEX audience that the Web is the largest ungoverned space in history. “We are indeed vulnerable. The cyber domain and digital things are tremendously empowering, but with that empowerment comes vulnerabilities that we have not seen before,” said Hayden in an interview after the session. “So, the wise consumer is the individual who understands that he/she is buying vulnerability, as well as convenience, and works very hard to reduce the vulnerabilities.”  

General Hayden spoke about recent terrorist attacks and the shift in fundamentals, saying, “Things that seem permanent are proving not to be; states are brittle, ambitious and nuclear; and then there’s the rise of China, which requires massive adjustment.” He discussed the changes in the power of states and the nature of power, which rather than concentrating in the center, is now pushed out to the edges and into less controllable hands. “Power pushed down has a lot of good, but also a lot of evil,” said Hayden referring to terrorism, transnational crime and cyber attacks committed by gangs, groups and individuals.

In terms of cyber activity, General Hayden cited examples of recent cyber attacks, and cautioned audience members what could go wrong. “There’s stealing your stuff, corrupting your stuff, hurting your network or making it unavailable, and creating physical destruction,” he said.

According to General Hayden, the main body for defense used to be the U.S. government. “We have not decided what we want or what we will allow the government to do to keep us safe,” said Hayden. “When government is late to the need, as it is in the cyber domain, the private sector steps in. The main body for providing security in the cyberworld is now the private sector.”

He concluded by questioning the 21st Century meaning of privacy, who is setting policy, what constitutes reasonable expectation of privacy and what people will allow. Acknowledging consumers’ engagement and reliance on Google and Facebook, Hayden referred to an image that included Facebook’s co-founder and chief executive officer Mark Zuckerberg, and said, “The young kid in the corner is going to have more to do with it than government.”  

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