Former CIA Official: 'Cyber Will Be Key Component of Any Future Conflict'

Cofer Black

Cyber war is an imminent threat, the former director of the CIA’s Counterterrorist Center Cofer Black said yesterday during his keynote speech at the Black Hat Security Conference in Las Vegas.

The counterterrorism official who raised the alarm that a major terrorist attack was coming before 9/11 warned conference attendees of the parallels he sees between the terrorist attacks that happened a decade ago and the emerging threats of the current cyber situation.

He urged the security community to pressure and educate government decision makers about the potential event of a cyber war.

Black explained the question of the severity of the threat and those behind it is just as much an issue now as it was in the lead-up to the Sept. 11 attacks. Many of the top decision makers remain ignorant of the threats and how they target major corporations, government agencies and the defense industry.

According to Black, U.S. officials must make cybersecurity a top priority in the national security strategy due to the potential impacts of a Stuxnet cyber attack.

“The Stuxnet attack is the Rubicon of our future,” Black told attendees. “Your world, which people thought was college pranks cubed and squared, has now morphed into physical destruction … from the victim’s view, of a national resource. This is huge.”

Stuxnet’s ability to affect physical infrastructures and assets means it must considered a tool that could be used by terrorists, Black said.  Stuxnet, considered the first known cyber weapon, was found on a computer in Iran in June 2010. The malware targets Siemens industrial software and equipment running on Microsoft Windows.

“We had the Cold War, the global war on terrorism, and now you have the ‘Code War,’ which is your war,” he said during his speech. “Cyber will be a key component of any future conflict, whether it is with a nation state, a rogue state or terrorist groups.”

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