ANNAPOLIS – In a speech at the U. S. Naval Academy on Friday, Special Assistant to the President and Cybersecurity Coordinator Michael Daniel said understanding “the human factor” of cyberwarfare is essential to making progress in the field of cyberdefense.
Hosted by the Academy’s Center for Cyber Security Studies in partnership with technology consulting firm Booz Allen Hamilton, Daniel discussed the threats the nation faces in cyberspace from the perspective of the White House, and why cybersecurity is becoming more difficult.
“We are working to protect… the global, transparent Internet,” said Daniel.
According to the Daniels, threats to the United States government in cyberspace fall into four categories: attacks on critical infrastructure, theft of intellectual property, traditional espionage, and threats to the open, global nature of the Internet.
“Bad guys don’t have to be coders sitting in their mother’s basement anymore,” Daniels said, noting that the tools available to those with malicious intent are becoming increasingly more sophisticated.
The speaker said that when you take a step back, it seems that cybersecurity should be a relatively easy task.
Oftentimes hackers are utilizing methods the government knows to exist in order to attack vulnerabilities the government is also aware of, Daniels said. He added that currently, “we clearly don’t understand the economics of cybersecurity.”
Daniel believes that economic and psychological factors, though underlooked, play a large part in shaping the landscape of cybersecurity attack.
“Until we really understand the human factor … we will never solve these problems,” he said.
Daniel went on to discuss what he called a “multi-stakeholder approach” to developing a framework for improving the country’s cybersecurity.
Normally the government interacts with the private sector in one of two ways: to regulate, or to contract, Daniel said.
In the case of the White House’s new cybersecurity initiative, which Daniel called a “uniquely American way” of handling things, the government is calling on the industry, academia and private companies to come together to aid one another.
Daniel said it is his hope that through this collaboration, those working in cybersecurity will be to produce a “cyberspace weathermap” – giving predictive value to data in order to aid in cyberdefense.
In response to the increasingly sophisticated nature of cyberwarfare and the importance of cybersecurity, the Naval Academy offers a Cyber Operations major beginning with the Class of 2016.
Beginning with the Class of 2015, all midshipmen are required to take two cyber courses as a part of their core curriculum.