SFS On Topic: Cybersecurity

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On April 26, 2016, Georgetown’s Master of Science in Foreign Service CyberProject hosted the sixth annual International Conference on Cyber Engagement. Since 2011, this annual event brings a multidisciplinary and international approach to the challenges of cyberspace, focusing on legal, technical, and policy questions in the United States and abroad.  The conference seeks to promote a dialogue among U.S. and foreign policymakers, academics and key industry stakeholders in cyberspace, as the global community grows increasingly interconnected in this domain.

FBI Director James Comey headlined the event along with U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse and Admiral Michael Rogers, the Commander of U.S. Cyber Command.

Cybersecurity: A View From The Hill

The Honorable Senator Whitehouse represents Rhode Island in the United States Senate. He is the ranking member of the Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime and Terrorism. To see Senator Whitehouse’s comments, which opened the event, please see video below.

Conflict With Apple Over San Bernardino iPhone

Comey addressed his agency’s recent battle with Apple over the encryption of a San Bernardino, California, gunman’s iPhone. “There is a collision between values we all share – privacy and security,” said Comey. “It would be bad if the conversation this has started, ended.” He reminded the audience that since the founding of the nation, privacy has never been absolute, and it should not be in the future either. “We should not drift to a place where wide swaths of American life are immune from judicial process,” he said.

While the FBI depended on hacking technology to make progress in the San Bernadino case, Director Comey does not see that path prevailing for many other investigations. “San Bernardino is a great example,” he said in his remarks, according to Foreign Policy. “We paid a ton of dough for the tool because it mattered so much for that investigation, but it works on a 5c running iOS 9 so it’s not scalable to other devices.”

The FBI’s contract purchasing the hacking tool did not include the rights to knowing which vulnerabilities in the phone allowed that to happen. The Washington Post quoted Director Comey’s comments about whether the FBI was obligated to report on the vulnerabilities, “The threshold is: Are we aware of the vulnerability, or did we just buy a tool and don’t have sufficient knowledge of the vulnerability that would implicate the process?”

Cooperation Between Public and Private Sectors

Director Comey emphasized that combating the cyberthreat involves greater collaboration between the public and private sectors. CBS News reported “Ninety-nine percent of the infrastructure is in private hands in this country,” Comey said. “So if we’re going to be effective, they have to tell us things, and we have to tell them things in a good way.” He continued, “We have to get to a place where it becomes routine for them to be in exchange and an appropriate lawful exchange of information between those victims and the government.”

Director Comey sees progress in the fight against cybercrime being made in some other areas, including China. According to Yahoo Tech, he said, “There are signs of progress in the Chinese helping us impose costs on active engagement and theft. I’m reasonably optimistic (about China), less so with Russia.”

To see Director Comey’s full remarks, please see the video below.

Fight Against ISIL

Cyber is one area in the fight against ISIL, according to Admiral Rogers. However, unlike nation states like China and Russia, traditional deterrence does not work. “They have zero interest in the status quo, their mission is the destruction of the status quo,” Rogers said in his remarks, according to Politico.

The Pentagon is adapting their tactics for this fight, but Admiral Rogers was reluctant to give any details.  “I’m not going to go into specifics of what we’re doing,” he said in his speech, according to The Wall Street Journal. “We are working against an adaptive, agile opponent. I’m not interested in giving them any advantage.”

To see Admiral Rogers’ full remarks, take a look at the video below.