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Government

Cyberwar forces govt rethink: ex-US CIO

Governments must consider their over-reliance on commercial infrastructure in a world rife with cyber warfare, according to the US Government's former chief information officer Vivek Kundra.
Written by Josh Taylor, Contributor on

Governments must consider their over-reliance on commercial infrastructure in a world rife with cyber warfare, according to the US Government's former chief information officer Vivek Kundra.

(Credit: CA)

The former CIO — appointed by US President Barack Obama to be the first government CIO in March 2009 until he stepped down from the role in August 2011 — told an audience at the CA World conference in Las Vegas that as cyber warfare becomes more likely, governments must consider how much they rely on commercial companies for their critical infrastructure.

"Over 70 per cent of the infrastructure the [US] government uses is not even in the government hands," he said. "The question becomes ... what represents systemic risk, what is the right level of partnership between the public sector and the private sector," he said. Kundra added that recent incidents of cyber attacks in the US showed that hacking was no longer just the domain of "teenage hackers doing this for fun" but also organised crime and nation states.

"There's a [cyber] arms race around those actors that want to do harm," he said.

The US must look at what countries like Australia are doing, he said, building out national telecommunications infrastructure such as the National Broadband Network (NBN).

"[There are] massive investments in Australia being made around backbone infrastructure," he said.

Former HP president and current chairman of Virtual Computing Environment Company (VCE), Michael D. Capellas, told the conference that he believed the bringing down of the internet through cyber terrorism will happen.

"The internet will shut down. It will happen," he said, adding that breaking into the US power grid would "not take much" given how well some cyber warfare groups were organised and funded.

"These are very well organised, extremely and sometimes nationally sponsored," Capellas said.

Kundra said that data sovereignty was also going to be a huge issue. Although much could be learned from the globalisation of commerce and trade, he believes "it's a little more complicated when it comes to the information economy".

"Nation states are going to have to confront this new reality."

Kundra said he also saw state-level internet filtering and the monetisation of personal information as issues that kept him up at night. Kundra left the US Government CIO position in August to take up a fellowship at Harvard University.

Josh Taylor travelled to Las Vegas as a guest of CA Technologies

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