Former CIA/NSA Head: Cyber Security Threats "Horribly Over-Classified"
October 7, 2011 11:35 AM
Former head of the National Security Agency and CIA and retired U.S. Air Force Gen. Michael Hayden
Ex-head of the National Security Agency and CIA and retired U.S. Air Force Gen. Michael Hayden said federal agencies need to open up to public and private industry to address cyber threats
climbs its way up the priority list after 2011's string of attacks against government and corporate systems, U.S. government agencies and companies struggle to find a happy medium between excessive secrecy and too much disclosure regarding the handling of such issues.
Going one way or the other can have severe repercussions. Excessive secrecy can stifle cyber defense, as too much focus could be placed on an issue that was already resolved elsewhere. If you keep it secret, someone who might know how to fix it cannot do so. Too much disclosure, on the other hand, gives hackers what they need to work around security systems.
So what's a company to do? According to former head of the National Security Agency and CIA and retired U.S. Air Force Gen. Michael Hayden, information regarding cyber attacks are "over-classified" and releasing only necessary information without being too descriptive could be helpful in creating an educated, open forum of
how to deal with these problems
"This may come as a surprise, given my background at the NSA and CIA and so on, but I think that this information is horribly over-classified," said Hayden. "The roots to American cyber power are in the American intelligence community, and we frankly are quite accustomed to working in a world that's classified. I'm afraid that that culture has bled over into how we treat all cyber questions."
U.S. President Barack Obama released a memo in January 2009 telling federal agencies to
work more closely with public and private industry
on important matters, allowing for greater government transparency. According to Army Col. Rivers Johnson, U.S. Cyber Command has been compliant with the president's demands.
"It's important to note that both NSA and USCYBERCOM continue to be committed to open government and transparency in accordance with the President's 21 January 2009 Memo," said Johnson. "We also have a responsibility to ensure classified and sensitive information is protected in accordance with applicable laws and policies."
"What's happened is, the accumulation of those individual, discrete, maybe correct decisions has created a consequence in which the overall effect is greater than the harm that would have been created by reviewing the individual decisions," said Hayden. "Collectively, what you've got is an uninformed public, and what you've got is a private sector that doesn't understand the precise nature of the threat they're up against."
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