Fellow Talks

Decoding Cyber Threats

featuring Amy Zegart
Tuesday, October 20, 2015
Image credit: 
isak55, Shutterstock

Recorded on October 20, 2015 – Hoover Institution fellow Amy Zegart notes that during the past two years Hoover has conducted a cyber boot camp for senior congressional staff that has already paid dividends in legislation on Capitol Hill. Zegart notes that cyber threats are everywhere and that we need to know about them. The threat environment the United States confronts today is unprecedented. During the Cold War we faced the grave prospect of nuclear Armageddon. But in terms of the threat landscape it was straightforward. We knew who our adversary was and we knew where it was located. Today the threat landscape is more crowded, more uncertain, and more dynamic. The complex threat environment is filled with rising states such as China, declining states such as Russia, weak states, failed states, rogue states like North Korea, non-state actors such as ISIS or Anonymous, transnational threats such as Ebola, global pandemics, global climate change, and so on. There are, however, two big differences in the threat environment today. One, for the first time one of the world’s major powers will be a developing country, China. Two, we live in a dramatic asymmetrical environment where great powers such as the United States are threatened by weak states or nongovernmental actors or by bands of individuals who can wage disproportionate war or damage our society. And, the threat environment is changing rapidly. Every year the director of national intelligence issues a list of threat assessments facing the United States. In 2007, cyber security did not make the list of threats. In 2009, cyber security was on page thirty-eight of a forty-five-page document. Cyber threats did not jump to the top of the list until 2012. Zegart concludes that in the jungle of the Internet it is easier for the bad guys to hide than it is for the good guys to find them; developing good policies is hard, but we must do it to confront and reduce the threats.