Security

How US companies can defend against cyberattacks from state actors

Cooperation between the private sector and government, says attorney and former CIA case officer Jack Rice, is the best way to protect corporate data from cyber-attacks.

TechRepublic's Dan Patterson spoke with Jack Rice, an attorney and former CIA case officer, about the best way to protect corporate data from cyber-attacks. The following is an edited transcript of the interview.

Patterson: When we have things like zero-day bugs and cyberattacks, these are directly tied to covert operations, and oftentimes can expose assets and operations. Could you share a little bit of that story and some of the cyberhacking implications of it?

Rice: I look back to multiple campaigns that you and I have covered, left and right. In the end, what we're talking about is something that sort of overshadows and at least reaches across all of those. What I think is important for your audience to think about in a case like this, is what I would think of as almost a spin on modern warfare.

SEE: Defending against cyberwar: How the cybersecurity elite are working to prevent a digital apocalypse

If you look at what was going on, and this just happened within the last few days, a former CIA case officer, essentially what people would think of as a spy, and that's what my job was years ago as well. A former CIA case officer who worked the Chinese target, was arrested by the FBI, essentially because what was going on is a bunch of CIA and US assets in China kept getting wrapped up, operations kept getting wrapped up, and the problem is, is you have to figure out what it is.

And in this particular case, what they determined is that it was this one former CIA officer who was able to provide incredible information to the Chinese, who could then turn around and use this to wipe out just about every operation that the US may have been running in China. The real implication of that is it essentially could make the US almost blind when it comes to the Chinese.

SEE: Research: Defenses, response plans, and greatest concerns about cybersecurity in an IoT and mobile world (Tech Pro Research)

Now let's put the spin on it as to where we are. The problem with if you think about what this means from a modern day warfare standpoint is, you realize the ability of a foreign government to reach into the US, to run the kinds of operations that they're trying to run, using the intelligence community itself, using assets inside of the US government. Understand the implications when those people can reach across government, reach across the legislative branch, the judicial branch, the executive branch, the havoc that this can cause on our government, and what that could actually do to the election process.

That's the reason you look at what's going on with the Russians right now, and you look at what they did and how successful they were, and how they're continuing to be successful, and frankly, I think inspiring others to also contemplate what this could mean from their perspective. You realize, we're stepping into a new election cycle, where others are going to say, "Well gosh, if it worked for them, what can it do for us?" That's the chilling aspect of where we are with modern warfare right now.

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Image: iStock/scyther5

About Dan Patterson

Dan is a Senior Writer for TechRepublic. He covers cybersecurity and the intersection of technology, politics and government.

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