AFPM ’15: General Michael Hayden examines cyber threats to industry

By Ben DuBose
Online Editor

SAN ANTONIO -- The post-industrial age is empowering individuals like never before, but it also significant raises the threat level for industry officials as they find themselves facing a new wave of potential attackers.

General Michael Hayden, former director of the Central Intelligence Agency and also ex-director of the National Security Agency, delivered the keynote address at Monday morning's general session for the American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers (AFPM) and examined potential trouble spots for America and American interests, such as its downstream refining and petrochemicals industries.

"The new post-industrial age has empowered you and me and given us the opportunity to do things, which previously required the assistance of powerful institutions to get done," Hayden said.

"We are so much more enabled than in the past," he explained. "Power has been pushed way down. That's a wonderful thing in some ways. We can now do from our home computer everything that a real estate agent used to do, for example."

"But that also carries a lot of risk, and it’s probably going to get worse before it gets better.”

Hayden spoke in-depth about threats in the form of terrorism, transnational crime and cyber attacks, with the latter of particular interest to the downstream petroleum audience.

Within those broader areas, Hayden broke down potential threats into three categories: nation states, criminal gangs and those disaffected.

"Most competent nation states, like China -- if they're stealing your stuff, it's self limited," Hayden said. "They're not trying to blow up your stuff. They want to steal your intellectual property."

Meanwhile, with criminal gangs, the target is typically money, he explained.

"There aren't many parasites that kill the host," Hayden said in making an analogy. "They want to live off the host."

The third group, however, remains much more mysterious.

"These guys are anonymous," Hayden said. "Many are 20-somethings who haven't talked to the opposite gender for years at a time, living in their mom's basement," he quipped.

"In all seriousness, that third group is hard to know," Hayden explained. "You're pretty iconic figures. They could be coming after you because they don't like your style or your industry. You're just part of that group."

Hayden said dealing with the problem remains a challenge for the US government, because many of the nation's prominent national security structures were formed in 1947 and are now over 65 years old.

"These programs like the NSA and CIA, they were formed to deal with state power," said Hayden. "The threat fundamentally isn't coming from that anymore. It's coming from the non-state sector.

"None of these cyber attacks require the resources of a nation-state to be effective," he said. "We live in a globalized world where we have empowered small actors and jammed together the good and the bad in ways we never have before," he added.

Hayden also cited concerns with "isolated, renegade or rogue" nation states who could attack American business interests because they don't have that much to lose.

Hayden referenced North Korea's recent cyber attack on Sony Pictures as one example, and said there would be numerous other possibilities in the years ahead.

"I can't rule out that a lonely, isolated, desperate Russia might fit into that same category as they reach out to try and show that they, too, can affect our commerce," said Hayden.

But in the end, the biggest "tectonic" for US security moving forward remains with Americans themselves, Hayden explained. In responding to a question from AFPM president Charles T. Drevna on how the US can balance security against freedom, Hayden called for "American pragmatism" and said voters must make it clear to elected officials on just what their priorities are.

“It’s all about privacy and the fourth amendment,” Hayden said. “We are protected against unreasonable search and seizure.

“But what constitutes reasonableness? I would offer the view that reasonableness is defined by the totality of circumstances. There is a reasonable search by TSA [in airports], even though it isn’t warranted.”

In closing, Hayden told AFPM delegates that within the five main US defense areas of land, space, air, sea and cyber, the latter requires by far the most government work in the months and years ahead because a consistent structure is simply not yet in place.

"We're going to have to make up our minds,” said Hayden.

"You and I have not yet decided what it is we want or will allow our government to do to keep us safe in the cyber domain," Hayden added. "Until we do, we're going to have problems."

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