National Security

Former NSA Chief: Trump Is Serious About Cybersecurity

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Russ Read Pentagon/Foreign Policy Reporter
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President Donald Trump is serious about improving U.S. cybersecurity, according to former National Security Director Keith Alexander.

Trump wants to protect U.S. infrastructure, specifically the power grid, and protect private industries, said Alexander while speaking at Tel Aviv University’s Cyber Week conference in Israel Monday.

The former NSA chief, who served both former Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama, met with Trump to discuss cybersecurity and what can be done to improve it. Alexander said Trump was “straightforward” during the February meeting, despite what is said in the press. The former NSA chief noted that the Constitution says to focus on the collective defense, which means that the federal government needs to get more engaged on cyber issues.

“It’s the government’s job to help, you can’t just sit back and wait,” said Alexander, while speaking on stage with Nadav Zafrir, the former head of Unit 8200, Israel’s famous cyber intelligence unit.

Addressing cybersecurity was one of Trump’s main talking points during his campaign in 2016.

The two former cyber chiefs noted that state and non-state hackers are attacking the foundations of civilizations. Small hacker groups, which are notoriously hard to track, are of particular concern.

Alexander noted that human beings are prone to mistakes that hackers can take advantage of, and that automatic patching is a solution.

As many as 300,000 Windows users were victims of a cyber attack known as “WannaCry” in May. Hackers used a form of software known as “ransomware,” which demands that a user pay a fee to access their stolen files. The affected users had failed to properly update their Windows operating system, which allowed the hackers to infect their computers.

The growing threat posed by hackers must be confronted by a partnership of both private industry and the government, according to Alexander. He argued for a return of traditional collective defense for cybersecurity, where Americans act as “citizen soldiers” helping protect the nation against online threats.

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