US Cyber Attack Defenses Assessed at Forum

November 13, 2021 by Victoria Turner
US Cyber Attack Defenses Assessed at Forum
Paul Stockton

WASHINGTON — The U.S. is at risk of creating a two-silo cybersecurity strategy impeding its ability to adequately address ever-evolving cyber threats from bad actors overseas, a former assistant secretary of defense said Friday.

Speaking at an American Enterprise Institute event, Paul Stockton, who is now president of the strategic advisory firm Paul N. Stockton LLC, warned the nation needs to bring these two silos together to create a cohesive defensive strategy, one that includes collaborating with foreign allies and industry stakeholders. 

“The bad guys are going … to use information operations together with cyberattacks to coerce our behavior,” he warned.

This is why social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter are particularly important industry partners that need to take more of a lead in this fight, said Stockton. Research points to Americans flocking to these platforms as a “primary source of information” during stressful events. 

This is the “bread and butter” of our nation’s adversaries, Stockton charged, adding countries like Russia and China are using these avenues to “shape U.S. behavior.”

Social media, Stockton charged, plays an intricate role in fighting cybercrime. 

Particularly important, he said, is the country’s defensive strategies in the “gray zone” where bad actors interact competitively outside the normal boundaries of war and peace. The cybersecurity approach needs to be more forward-looking. The Colonial Pipeline hack was a “wake-up call,” he added, noting that ransomware attacks will only escalate.

“As we simultaneously strengthen resilience against those day-to-day kinds of attacks, we also need to think about much more serious threats to come,” he urged.

The U.S. must put together a threat assessment protocol and find a way for federal agencies like the Department of Homeland Security and the FBI to work with the private sector to “build the kinds of defenses we don’t yet have against coercive IOs and combined attacks.” 

Victoria can be reached at [email protected] 

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  • American Enterprise Institute
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