The U.S.’s Cyber Command is using special, classified briefings with private sector CEOs to scare them into greater vigilance about the threat of cyber attacks, according to an NPR report.
The report, quoting unnamed participants in the classified, 2010 briefings said that government officials including Cyber Command Chief Gen. Keith Alexander and representatives from DoD, DHS and office of the Director of National Intelligence “scared the bejeezus” out of CEOs from leading technology firms like Dell and HP.
The briefings were part of a three year-old program dubbed the “Enduring Security Framework” that was designed to foster closer coordination between private sector executives and Washington. According to the NPR report, the executives are granted a temporary, one-day classified clearance and treated to a peak under the cover at some of the offensive cyber tools that are at the disposal of cyber warriors at the NSA, CIA and the Pentagon. The idea, according to public testimony by Alexander and Mike McConnell, the former U.S. director of national intelligence, is to show what the U.S.’s cyber offensive capabilities are, with an eye to preparing private firms for what might be leveraged against them by nation-backed attackers.
Among the attacks highlighted by government officials was a firmware based attack that could “brick” hardware by leading manufacturers, the sources told NPR.
Legislation pending on Capitol Hill, including the recently defeated SOPA (Stop Online Piracy Act) and the controversial Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA) provide new mechanisms for information sharing between the government and private entitites. However, privacy advocates such as the Center for Democracy and Technology have expressed consern about the bills’ support for wide ranging, warrantless government surveillance of ordinary citizens.