NSA: Cybercrime is 'the greatest transfer of wealth in history'

The director of the National Security Agency (NSA) has called cybercrime "the greatest transfer of wealth in history." As such, he urged politicians and the American population in general to support cybersecurity legislation being pushed through Congress.
Written by Emil Protalinski, Contributor

At an American Enterprise Institute (AEI) event on Monday called "Cybersecurity and American power," U.S. Army Gen. Keith B. Alexander called cybercrime "the greatest transfer of wealth in history." The director of the National Security Agency (NSA) and chief at the Central Security Service (CSS) reemphasized an immense problem the U.S. is facing: intellectual property loss via cyber espionage.

I've embedded the full video above. Below are some choice excerpts I found worth underlining.

"In fact, in my opinion, it's the greatest transfer of wealth in history," Alexander said in a statement. "Symantec placed the cost of IP theft to the United States companies in $250 billion a year, global cybercrime at $114 billion annually ($388 billion when you factor in downtime), and McAfee estimates that $1 trillion was spent globally under remediation. And that's our future disappearing in front of us. So, let me put this in context, if I could. We have this tremendous opportunity with the devices that we use. We're going mobile, but they're not secure. Tremendous vulnerabilities. Our companies use these, our kids use these, we use these devices, and they're not secure."

In addition, Alexander insisted that the lack of cybersecurity legislation can no longer continue. He urged politicians to stop delaying the approval of new cybersecurity laws, various proposals for which are currently making their way through Congress.

"We can do protection of civil liberties and privacy, and cybersecurity, as a nation," Alexander said. "Not only we can, but I believe that is something we must do. And so this cyber legislation that is coming up is going to be absolutely vital to the future of our country."

Hackers are often seen as pests, and a nuisance. When they band together, however, and especially when they are sponsored by a state, their potential power is huge. Bright minds in the U.S. are aware of this and regularly urge the government and private companies to take action. More resources can always be used to train cyber experts, build a defensive architecture, and increase situational awareness.

Finally, NSA's chief noted America's defensive measures will only be effective if information can flow, to those tasked with defending the country, at network speed. "One of the things that we have to have then is that if the critical infrastructure community is being attacked by something we need them to tell us at network speed," Alexander said. "It doesn't require the government to read their mail, or you mail, to do that. It requires the Internet Service Provider or that company to tell us that type of event is going on at this time, and it has to be at network speed if you're gonna stop it."

He then provided a quick and dirty military analogy. "It's like a missile coming into the United States. If you think about a missile coming into the United States there's two things you can do. You can take the snail mail approach and say I saw a missile going overhead, looked like it's headed your way, put a letter in the mail and say 'how did that turn out?' Now, cyber is at the speed of light. I'm just saying we perhaps ought to go a little faster. We probably don't want to use snail mail. Maybe we can do this in real time, and come up with a construct that you and the American people know, that we're not looking at civil liberties and privacy, we're actually trying to figure out when the nation is under attack and what we need to do about it."

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