New rules of cyber-crime engagement needed to protect US now

It comes as no surprise that cyberattacks are on the rise, but what some may not be aware of is how specific and pointed those attacks are becoming. As new technologies arrive, they are being directed more and more at the United States' national security secrets, and are harder than ever to protect against them.

In fact, according to officials testifying at a Senate hearing the week of Jan. 30, targeted cyber crime threats have become an ever-present and growing concern of the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the United States.

Robert Mueller, the director for the FBI, and National Intelligence Director James Clapper both shared this sentiment at the annual Worldwide Threat hearing.

"The cyber threat is one of the most challenging ones we face," said Clapper in front of the Senate committee. "Among state actors, we're particularly concerned about entities within China and Russia conducting intrusions into U.S. computer networks and stealing U.S. data."

One example of this was a report from Symantec in January that pointed to China as being the origin of the Sykipot Trojan that targeted federal defense organizations. The goal of the malware was to embed a keylogger to swipe private data.

Clapper discussed that it would be easier for foreign governments to engage in acts like the Sykipot incident to obtain new tech than to spend the resources and money it takes to develop their own. This is also a concern because Clapper doesn't believe that there are enough deterrents to hinder cyber theft due to the speed in which new tech is introduced. "We foresee a cyber environment in which emerging technologies are developed and implemented before security responses can be put in place."

Touching on the idea of a changing technological environment, Mueller discussed that just as local and federal law enforcement completely rewrote the book on handing terrorism on U.S. soil after the attacks on the Twin Towers and the Pentagon, the rules of engagement in cybersecurity should also be completely refreshed as it continues to be a growing threat.

"In the same way we changed to address terrorism, we have to change to address cyber crime." Mueller said. "And so we have to build up the collective addressing of that threat in the same way that we did so and broke down the walls in the wake of Sept. 11."

Congress will  take into consideration both Mueller's and Clapper's testimony when it debates next month a new cyber legislation that would grant the Homeland Security Department more power to protect high-profile U.S. computer networks.

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