Attacks, disruption, destruction top concerns for NSA chief

RSA Conference keynote reveals concerns over critical U.S. infrastructure, data integrity
Written by John Fontana, Contributor

Michael Rogers, director of the National Security Agency, Tuesday told a packed RSA keynote audience that over the next three years his main concerns are cyber attacks on critical U.S. infrastructure, destruction of data integrity, and disruption of the status quo.

Rogers appeared on the second day of the annual RSA Conference in San Francisco and struck a tone of partnership with the private sector, with an emphasis on Silicon Valley. The presentation was predictable and light on details until Rogers began his concluding remarks.

He said there are three main issues that concern him over the next three years, the first one being "when, not if, [we] are going to see a nation state or actor take destructive action against critical U.S infrastructure."

Rogers recounted a December 23rd attack on the Ukrainian power grid that he said was well crafted and focused on knocking the system down, how the provider was likely to respond to the outage, and how to slow down the restoration process.

"This is not the last time we will see this, and that concerns me," he said.

Second, Rogers said, is that the majority of cyber attacks to date have been about data theft. "What happens when that same activity is used to manipulate data, software or products and we cannot trust the data? What do you do when you can't believe the data?"

Finally, Rogers said his third concern focuses on what happens when actors use "cyber tools for destruction, for tearing down the status quo. Most non-state actors use cyber tools today to recruit, spread ideology, generate revenue and create widely dispersed individuals."

During his 30-minute presentation, Rogers called data "an increasing commodity of interest to many with a strong desire to steal it." The one thing Rogers did not touch on was Edward Snowden and documents he released exposing the NSA's global spy program.

The RSA Conference runs through Friday.

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