Hayden: 'Digital Blackwater' may be necessary for private sector to fight cyber threats

Summary:The private sector may need to take up its own arms against cyber threats and not rely solely on the federal government, Gen. Michael Hayden says.

In an age where cyberwarfare is more common than the physical battlefield, it may be necessary for the private sector to stop playing defense and go on offense, Gen. Michael Hayden said Friday.

Hayden, who led the National Security Administration and Central Intelligence Agency under president George W. Bush, said during a panel discussion at the Aspen Security Forum in Aspen, Colo. that the federal government may not be the sole defender of private sector companies -- and that there's precedent for such action.

"We may come to a point where defense is more actively and aggressively defined even for the private sector and what is permitted there is something that we would never let the private sector do in physical space," he said.

"Let me really throw out a bumper sticker for you: how about a digital Blackwater?” he asked. “I mean, we have privatized certain defense activities, even in physical space, and now you’ve got a new domain in which we don’t have any paths trampled down in the forest in terms of what it is we expect the government -- or will allow the government -- to do."

Hayden emphasized that he's "not quite an advocate for that," but that it's a reality both private and public sectors must face.

Here's the entire panel discussion, from host the Aspen Institute:

Photo: Tarek Rizk/Flickr

Topics: Government : US, Government, Networking

About

Andrew Nusca is a former writer-editor for ZDNet and contributor to CNET. He is also the former editor of SmartPlanet, ZDNet's sister site about innovation. He writes about business, technology and design now but used to cover finance, fashion and culture. He was an intern at Money, Men's Vogue, Popular Mechanics and the New York Daily Ne... Full Bio

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