What keeps our CIA Director up at night? I asked him, and he said our vulnerabilities on the web were his greatest concern.
“When I think about the things that worry me, the cyber environment, the digital domain, particularly as we are all now much more interconnected,” Brennan said.
Brennan, like many other Americans, has been the victim of cyber crime. Last year, he had his personal e-mail account hacked. The Director has concerns about terrorist groups, such as ISIS, using the web to spread propaganda and for recruitment.
“There is a real challenge as far as making sure that we’re able to prevent these groups from taking advantage of the openness of our society and of the internet to encourage people to carry out these attacks,” Brennan said.
America’s critical infrastructure- the utilities, refineries, military defense systems, water treatment plants- is also at risk for a cyber attack.
“A lot of the critical infrastructure of the United States, whether it be transportation or electric grids or other things. That infrastructure, the critical infrastructure of the United States, really needs to be as protected as possible.”
Brennan believes that the digital domain is still a weak spot for the United States. In fact, cyber security is of such concern to him that just last year he reorganized his thousands of employees at CIA around the changing cyber world.
“We’ve hardened our borders. We’ve made sure that people who are coming into the country, whether it be in airports or seaports, are scrutinized but they can take advantage of this cyber environment and propagate their views as well as encourage and incite individuals to carry out their aims,” Brennan said.
In recent months, the U.S. Government and the tech industry have been at odds. The issue is over the locked Apple iPhone of the San Bernardino terrorist. The FBI believed the phone contained vital information that was pertinent to their investigation. However, when the FBI requested Apple to unlock the phone they said no, claiming it violated civil liberties. Director Brennan says the intelligence and tech communities need to come together and form a partnership.
“What we want to do is work with them so that we can help protect the security of this country so that the terrorist groups and our adversaries are not able to exploit that environment. What I would like to do is make sure there’s going to be a dialogue between the government and industry about how we can protect the civil liberties and privacy rights of Americans, while at the same time protecting their security, because you need security in order to ensure the prosperity of this country.”