[AUTHENTICITY CERTIFIED: Text
version below transcribed directly from audio]
Good morning. I’d like to thank RSA for
bringing me back here today. I also want to acknowledge my wife Linda
this Valentines Day. Happy Valentines Day, honey. We have five teenagers
at home, so when it comes to homeland security, issues I have a lot of
personal experience on the home front, we call it domestic terrorism at
Before we begin, I want to say it’s an
honor for me to address some of the brightest tech leaders in the world.
You are the mode of power of the modern economy. You are advancing human
prosperity. And you’re on the front lines of protecting our personal
privacy and digital security.
This morning some of you are joining us
from overseas. And for many others you began your journey to America
years ago. I’m proud that our nation is a beacon of hope to people in
all corners of the globe who seek to create, collaborate, and innovate.
But in light of recent events in
Washington I know there’s deep concern in this room about whether U.S.
policies will continue to welcome that international talent. So let me
say this – and we should never forget: This is a country built by
immigrants. This is a nation where the oppressed have long sought
refuge. And our country is a magnet for creators and entrepreneurs who
are willing to take risks and pursue their dreams. The United States
must maintain that tradition not only for our country’s credibility but
for the survival of liberty itself. That is why I will fight to ensure
that America continues to [extend] an open hand to peaceful,
freedom-loving people regardless of where they were born, regardless of
how they worship, and regardless of the color of their skin – because
that is who we are. And that is how we will attract the world’s best
thinkers to build a stronger country and a more vibrant global economy.
Today I want to you about the war in
cyberspace, why I believe we are falling behind, and what we can do to
strike back. I’m going to be brutally honest: We are in the fight of our
digital lives, and we are not winning.
As a chairman of the Homeland Security
Committee in the House, I get briefed on these threats every week. It’s
clear to me that our adversaries are turning digital breakthroughs into
digital bombs. And from Russian and Chinese hacking to [inaudible at:
3:08] headaches, our cyber rivals are overtaking our defenses.
Nation-states are using cyber tools to steal our country’s secrets, and
to copy our intellectual property. Faceless hackers are snatching our
cyber data and locking down access to our healthcare information. And
terrorists are abusing encryption and social media to crowdsource the
murder of innocent people. Web-based warfare is becoming incredibly
personal. The combatants are everywhere. And the phones in your pockets
are the battlespace.
I’d like to ask first for you to raise
your hand if you’ve ever had an online account hacked. Now raise it if
you’ve been told by a retailer or any online service that your
information may have been compromised. And I’m going to raise mine as
well. (Or compromised by a teenager.) Finally, raise your hand if you’re
worried that your accounts and devices could be compromised in the
future. I would think that’s everybody in this room.
And you’re a room of top
cybersecurity experts. If you’re concerned about getting hacked, then
ordinary people should be especially worried.
Former NSA Director Keith Alexander
made a powerful point: The magnitude of cyber espionage and theft we’re
seeing today has led to “the greatest transfer of wealth” in human
The crisis extends from kitchen tables to corporate boardrooms.
In Congress, I oversaw many of our
nation’s cybersecurity efforts. And I’ve been the victim of cyber theft.
Chinese hackers stole 20 million security clearances -- including my own
-- in a 2015 attack on the U.S. Government’s Office of Personnel
But the threat is worse than just
espionage. Our democracy itself is at risk. Last year, there is no doubt
in my mind that the Russian government tried to undermine and influence
our elections. They broke into political institutions, invaded the
privacy of private citizens, spread false propaganda, and created
discord in the lead up to an historic vote. I was briefed on the
situation starting in the springtime, and frankly, it didn’t matter to
me whether it was Democrats or Republicans being targeted. These were
Americans first, in the crosshairs of the Kremlin. And to me, that was
I pushed both the Obama Administration and
then candidate Trump to take public and forceful stands on the issue.
But I was disappointed in their response. The crisis was the biggest
wakeup call yet that cyber intrusions have the potential to jeopardize
the very fabric of our Republic.
So why aren’t we winning? How can cyber
criminals conduct virtual robberies right under our noses? Let me
suggest five reasons.
First, there’s the issue of volume. I’ve
said before that the digital frontier is a lot like the wild west. There
are more cyber outlaws than cyber sheriffs to round them up. A lot of
hackers out there should be behind bars. But law enforcement agencies at
all levels are struggling to keep up with the volume and complexity of
network intrusions. Also, our laws have not kept up with this new
Second, the high speed of high tech gives
cybercriminals an advantage. History shows us that offensive weapons
always outpace our defenses. We faced this challenge with every man-made
weapon since the Stone Age. The spear led to the shield, the bullet to
the bulletproof vest, and so on. Yet we've never seen a weapon used
against us so regularly, so aggressively, and a weapon that can adapt while we are
trying to defend against it. And it’s expensive to keep up with it. Today, in
some cases, the United States Government is fighting 21st century threats with
20th century technology and a 19th century bureaucracy.
Third, we have serious
information-sharing challenges. I compare this to the period before
9/11. We all had the information we needed to keep terrorists from
attacking on the fateful day. But we did not connect the dots. The walls
were up, and we didn’t share the information. We are
in the same place with cyber. Between your companies, government
agencies, and U.S. allies, we have the threat data to stop many of these
intrusions. Yet the sharing is still far too weak. As a result, the vast majority of cyber
attacks go unreported, leaving others vulnerable to the same intrusions.
Fourth, deterrence is difficult. I know as
a former federal prosecutor and as a father of five teenagers that if there are no consequences for bad
behavior, that bad behavior will continue. In the cyber realm, we have
to show that there will be consequences, and that intruders will be
brought to justice. Unfortunately, we still do not have clear
proportionate response policies for striking back against nation
states, cyber criminals, and others who invade our systems. And we
certainly don’t have the manpower, appropriate legal structures, and
global cooperation to take down suspects as fast as we need to.
Fifth, we face a real paradox between
national security and digital security. Nowhere is this more obvious
than with the terror threat. Gone are the days of Osama bin Laden, when extremists
plotted using caves and couriers. Now we have a new generation of
terrorists who are recruiting over the internet, and using “virtual safe
havens” to escape detection and force their propaganda on a global
Internet scale. And partly as a result, we are seeing an unprecedented
spike in terror plotting against the West. We had the brutal attacks in Paris and Brussels
as tragic examples and reminders of how terrorists stay under-the-radar by using
end-to-end encryption on their phones to cover their tracks.
At the same time, we must resist the
temptation to go after encryption with simple knee-jerk responses. I
believe that creating backdoors into secure
platforms would be a huge mistake. It would put our personal data at risk and leave our
companies vulnerable to intrusion. Instead, we need to find a way to
keep our country safe, while also keeping our data safe and secure. But
we're still not there yet.
So what does it take to prevail against
our cyber -- cyber adversaries? It starts with the right mindset. In 1940,
British Prime Minister Winston Churchill responded to the Nazi invasion
of Europe with
a rousing speech in the House of Commons. He vowed that
the British would:
...fight on the seas and oceans…fight on the
beaches…fight on the landing grounds…fight in the fields and in the
streets…fight in the hills…[and] never surrender.
Now, I don’t think we need a bunker
mentality, you know, on this. But we need to acknowledge that we are under siege
in the cyber space, the cyber battlefield, and respond with urgency and
resolve. First, we must redouble our efforts to
defend private sector networks and the public. When I say “we,” I’m not
talking about just the government.
In fact, President Reagan once said the
most terrifying words in the English language were: “I’m from the
government and I’m here to help" you. It still holds true today. Today it might be: “I’m from the
government and I can help you secure your iPhone.” But federal agencies
are not necessarily the answer when it comes to cybersecurity. I believe
answer is right here in this room. It’s the bleeding-edge work being
done in the private sector. And we need your innovation -- we need your
initiative, to stay a step ahead of cyber criminals.
Government does play a role, a critical
role in coordination. In the wake of [the] Snowden leaks, it is
important, now more than ever, that we reassure the public that federal
cybersecurity here at home is being led by a civilian department -- a
civilian department, not by the
military and not by intelligence agencies. Just as we do not allow
soldiers to protect our city streets -- we allow the police -- we should not have organizations
like the military patrolling our networks.
Cyber is a team sport.
We need strong offense and strong defense. So I'm pushing to make the
lanes of responsibility more clear. I propose the creation of a stronger,
consolidated cybersecurity agency at the
Department of Homeland Security, building on important laws we have
passed in recent years. This is an important step in standing up to cyber
Our next priority should be fixing the
information sharing weaknesses I outlined earlier. In 2015, Congress passed
The Cybersecurity Act, a landmark bill to increase information
sharing about cyber threats. The law’s liability protections and privacy
safeguards make it easier for companies to stop attacks, and if they
chose, to share it with the federal government. But more companies need to
step up to the plate and start sharing with each -- each other. Once
again, that is a goal -- we are counting on you to help us achieve.
Next, we need a talented cyber workforce
on the frontlines. We are losing
top cyber talent because morale is bad on the inside as -- and money is
better on the outside. I’m trying to change that. I've worked with my
colleagues in Congress to pass legislation to expedite hiring authority
at DHS for new recruits, but the Department needs to act more quickly to
use this authority. We also need bipartisan legislation -- and we passed
it -- creating a
“scholarships for service” program to help students pay for college if
they commit to working on cybersecurity at the Federal, State, or local
level. Thousands of students have now gone through this program, allowing
us not only to recruit them -- and recruit top people -- but also to retain them.
Many of your organizations face the same
challenges. And you want the flexibility to bring in specialists from
around the world. I believe America’s doors must stay open to
high-skilled workers who will contribute to our society and join us in
building an innovation economy. And that is why I’m supporting efforts in
the Congress to streamline our
H-1B visa process to make sure tech companies
can get the right people, from the right places, at the right time.
And then there is a “going dark” challenge.
There's no easy answer to this one. As I said before, we cannot undermine
encryption -- and
we heard from talented encryption experts in the
previous panel. It's bedrock of internet security. But at the same
time, we cannot -- can't allow groups like ISIS to
remote-control terrorist attacks using the darkness of the web. So this
year I -- I will work again with Senator Mark Warner to call for a
commission of the nation’s top experts -- from academia, privacy, tech,
law enforcement, and beyond -- to find real solutions that balance
digital security with national security. And I hope many of you will support
Digital Security Commission. The eyes of the world are upon
us, and I believe America should lead the way on this very important
Second, to prevail against online
adversaries we must defend our government institutions, our critical
infrastructures, and our democracy -- and we must respond to attacks
decisively. As far as federal networks are concerned, DHS is responsible
for securing the so-called “dot gov” domain. At the end of last year, the Department announced the “Einstein 3A”
to advance intrusion detection. It was providing coverage to a
total of 93 percent of U.S. civilian agencies. However, we will never be
able to build virtual walls high enough to completely stop hackers from
getting inside the digital space.
So, once again: We need
industry to help us.
In Congress, I'll be working on bills to
break down bureaucratic barriers so that we can collaborate more closely with
your companies to secure federal networks. We also
know that our adversaries are targeting our infrastructure, 85
percent of which is in the hands of the private sector. They are
deploying cyber implants that could be used to threaten us. A major cyber attack on gas pipelines or the power grid, for
instance, could damage the economy and weaken our ability to defend the
United States. I just met with
Admiral Mike Rogers for breakfast, the
head of the NSA. And
Congress that the -- that the bad guys are leaving “cyber fingerprints” on
infrastructure. They are sending a message: “Watch what you say and do,
America, because we can hit you from within.”
It's only a matter of time before such an
attack happens, which is why critical infrastructure should be built
with cybersecurity in mind. Unfortunately, too often companies are
focused on putting up chain-link fences around their headquarters rather
than putting digital fences around their networks. I plan to work with
the new Administration to address the critical infrastructure
vulnerabilities more seriously, and I applaud them for undertaking a
major review of these threats.
More broadly, I've been urging the
Administration to develop a new national cybersecurity strategy as soon
as possible. We are feeling tectonic shifts on the
virtual ground beneath us. And our current cyber plans just won’t cut it. The
United States Government needs better response options. It needs to be
conducting regular “cyber exercises” to make sure we’re prepared --
including with foreign partners.
Additionally, our ability to win the war
in cyberspace depends on our ability to deliver consequences by striking
back when appropriate. This will require strong leadership from the top, a
willingness to track down rogue hackers, and a determination to hold
hostile countries accountable for bad behavior. We cannot allow,
adversaries to use cyber intrusions to meddle into our domestic affairs,
and especially into our democratic process. This is a redline we should not allow
anyone to cross. And our strategy should go beyond just “returning fire”
[online]. It should include the threat of sanctions and other real-world
Russia is the perfect example. We must
continue to call out Moscow for election interference. And if we don’t
hold the line on sanctions and deliver meaningful consequences, I am
certain that they
will do it again. We’ve got to say
enough is enough.
Finally, America should be engaging with
our overseas partners to win the war in cyberspace -- our NATO allies.
Our nations have different
laws and privacy expectations but we’ve got to figure out how to
respect those differences while working together quickly -- because
the attackers won’t give us the benefit of time. We must develop clear
“rules of the road,” especially when it comes to cyber warfare. In times
of crisis, uncertainty and lack of coordination can cause situations to
spiral out of control. So we should confer with our partners on major
incidents, work together to build mutual defenses, and put the
infrastructures in place for joint action.
Lastly, we should make sure we are
prepared for what lies ahead. For instance, we need to be ready for the
era of quantum computing. The “digital atomic
bomb” is on the not-too-distant horizon. And the first hostile country
to gain such capability will pose a serious threat to the rest of the
world. The United States should lead a coalition of like-minded nations
to prepare for the quantum future and ensure we have the right cyber
defenses in place when it comes.
Looking back on 2016, it was a watershed year in
cyberspace -- and for a lot of the wrong reasons. But I think it made us all more realistic about the
danger we face and more clear-eyed about what needs to be done. And while the cyber landscape is bleak, we
cannot let the threat of the unknown and unseen outweigh what we
already do know and already can see: that we have the world’s greatest
minds working to defend our networks. And to those of you who make
cybersecurity your day job, I want to thank you for what you’ve done, for what
you are doing, and what you will do to defend us into the future.
Thank you so much for having me.