News : Terrorism

Iran, Terrorists, North Korea Scariest Cybersecurity Threats, Obama Officials Say

By Tim Starks

Roll Call - Russia and China might be the the most advanced (non-U.S.) countries when it comes to cyber operations, but the cybersecurity threats a group of Obama administration officials said they worried about most come from another place. Namely: the countries and groups that are not “deterrable.”

Asked at a Washington Post forum Wednesday what cyber threats keep them up at night, the trio of officials agreed that it’s either terrorist groups, or Iran and North Korea, or both. Said John Carlin, assistant Attorney General for national security: “Those that if they have the capabilities, they will use it.” Joining him in that view were Eric Rosenbach, assistant secretary of Defense for homeland security and global security, and Christopher Painter (@c_painter), the State Department’s coordinator for cyber issues.

Most experts say that Russia and China have used their capability against the United States primarily for theft. But there are worse kind of cyber attacks possible, like those on the electricity grid.

“The undesirable rogue criminal groups or rogue states” therefore “make the case for having a more cooperative framework, making sure countries have rules and laws in place,” said Painter.

Rosenbach said some 60 countries were looking to develop the equivalent of the U.S. Cyber Command, and the United States was working to help some of them. But the key would be to avoid giving those companies cyber offensive capabilities, or better ability to monitor their own citizens, the administration officials said.

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