WASHINGTON — Partnerships with key allies and friends around the world are increasingly vital to stopping bad actors in cyberspace, US Cyber Command and National Security Agency chief Adm. Mike Rogers said Thursday.
Speaking as part of the Atlantic Council’s Brent Scowcroft Center on International Security’s Commanders Series, Rogers said that the challenges in cyberspace were too big for the US to go it alone.
“A lot of our focus areas in 2016 will be building on this power of partnerships, not just within the US, not just outside the government within the US, but how we do it in a more international way,” he said. “We are not going to do a US only approach to how we are going to address these challenges in cyber.”
During his tenure as commander of Cyber Command and head of the NSA, which began in April 2014, Rogers has tried to implement a culture of cyber hygiene and security. Staffers must have the same attitude toward cyber as someone who is issued a weapon, becoming personally responsible for securing it and only using it properly.
This type of basic building block is a key part of a defensive posture when, as a society, the US has become a bit complacent toward cyber incidents, he said.
“We are becoming increasingly numb to this activity in some ways. It is just become so recurring, such a drumbeat,” he said. If your credit card is compromised, you call the bank and it issues a new one, or if your email is hacked, you change your password and move on, he said.
“For many of us, it has to date, been more of an inconvenience than had significant impact,” he said.
But Rogers anticipated that the environment of attacks and hostile incursions will get worse before it gets better.
“As a military guy, I’ve always thought that threat is the combination of capability and intent,” he said. “I’m watching capability where I go, wow, if the intent were to change, we’d have some real challenges.”
But given how entrenched the Internet and all the devices that connect to it have become in daily life, simply walking away from the problem is not an option, he said.
“The Internet of things and the broad ideas that it represents are something foundational to our future,” he said. “Encryption is foundational to our future.”
This year will be an inflection point for Cyber Command, Rogers said. During its first five years of existence, Cyber Command has focused on building capability and capacity, and 2016 will mark a shift toward putting those to use, he said. This includes moving away from focusing on network security to improving security on platforms and systems, he said.
The world is still developing rules of engagement for cyberspace, he said. While the inherent right to self-defense is accepted in the kinetic sphere, it is less clear in cyberspace.
“We’ve come to a pretty good consensus on the defensive side,” but offensive applications or force are still being figured out, he said.