CIA details agency’s new digital and cyber espionage focus

CIA Directorate of Digital Innovation opens for business Oct. 1

RELATED TOPICS

It seems like it might be about 10 years too late to the party but come October 1, the Central Intelligence Agency will ad a new directorate that will focus on all things cyber and digital espionage.

The CIA’s Deputy Director David Cohen to a Cornell University audience last week that once the new Directorate of Digital Innovation (DDI) is up and running “it will be at the center of the Agency’s effort to inject digital solutions into every aspect of our work. It will be responsible for accelerating the integration of our digital and cyber capabilities across all our mission areas—human intelligence collection, all-source analysis, open source intelligence, and covert action.”

+More on Network World: CIA: Five particularly timeless tips from the Simple Sabotage Field Manual+

“On October 1st, ten new CIA Mission Centers will cover every issue we face—six focused on regions, like Africa and the Near East; and four focused on functional issues, such as terrorism and weapons proliferation. Each center will pull together all the tremendous talents and skills previously stove-piped into separate groups, promoting collaboration among Agency specialists in operations, collection, analysis, technical capabilities, and support,” Cohen stated.

  • Cohen listed a number of areas that the directorate will focus on such as:The DDI will also help inform analysis by developing and deploying sophisticated IT tools that will help our analysts conduct research by revealing potential linkages between and among data in our holdings. One of the real challenges of modern intelligence analysis is the sheer volume of information that is collected by our intelligence community, Cohen said.
  • The DDI will help our clandestine officers maintain effective cover in the modern, digital world. For our case officers, the cyber age is very much a double-edged sword. While digital footprints may enable us to track down a suspected terrorist, this “digital dust”   -- credit card transactions; car rentals; internet searches and purchases -- can also leave our officers vulnerable. From the standpoint of a clandestine officer seeking to create and maintain her cover—perhaps the most fundamental element of espionage—this can pose a real challenge. We must find ways to protect the identity of our officers who increasingly have a digital footprint from birth. Likewise, since having no digital trail can raise suspicions too, we also have to figure out how to create digital footprints to support cover identities. Within this digital world, the DDI, collaborating with other components in the Agency, will work to ensure that our officers can continue to operate clandestinely, Cohen stated.
  • The DDI also will be deeply involved in our efforts to defend the Agency against foreign cyber attacks. As I am sure you are all aware, cyber attacks against the U.S. government—like those against businesses, universities, and organizations all across the country—are increasing in frequency, scale, sophistication, and severity of impact. One of the DDI’s key responsibilities is developing the policies; technologies and protocols to better defend the Agency against these attacks. Its cyber threat analysts, who are experts in hackers’ tools and techniques, work with highly classified intelligence on the plans, intentions and capabilities of an ever-expanding assortment of malicious cyber actors, Cohen said.+More on Network World: CIA: A world without Google Maps or satellites?
  • The DDI will oversee the efforts of the CIA’s Open Source Enterprise, a unit dedicated to collecting, analyzing and disseminating publicly available information of intelligence value. The fact is, information does not have to be secret to be valuable. More and more, information relevant to US intelligence requirements is openly available on foreign web sites and in social media. Knowing what’s out there for the taking allows us to better focus our risky and expensive human collection efforts on the key national security questions that cannot be answered in any other way. And combining open source information with clandestinely acquired intelligence can help paint a much clearer picture of the world than either open source or clandestinely acquired information could alone.
  • Open-source information can offer its own valuable intelligence insights. Take, for example, ISIL’s use of social media. As I’m sure you are all aware, ISIL is a prolific, and quite proficient, user of social media. While this allows ISIL to spread its malevolent propaganda and reach out to potential recruits, it also provides us with useful intelligence. But ISIL’s tweets and other social media messages publicizing their activities often produce information that, especially in the aggregate, provides real intelligence value. The DDI will oversee CIA’s open-source collection efforts to ensure that we make full use of this rich data set, Cohen said.
  • DDI also will be responsible for the Agency’s cadre of data scientists. Housed in our new mission centers, these DDI data scientists will develop and deploy customized IT tools to help our analysts make connections in the data and test the analytic calls they make. Given the variety, complexity and volume of data we take in, this calls for some of the most sophisticated and cutting-edge programming and “big data” analysis being performed anywhere today.
  • The DDI will rapidly identify, transition, and deploy the best digital technologies from the private sector to bolster CIA mission execution in all areas. Building on our experience with In-Q-Tel, the highly successful technology incubator CIA established about 15 years ago, the DDI will expand our direct outreach to commercial digital entities through the establishment of a DDI business portal in Silicon Valley. This team’s mission will be to identify cutting-edge technology that the Agency could use in its highly secure environment, and accelerate the integration of these solutions across our missions, Cohen said.

 +More on Network World: The top technologies the CIA thinks are hot+

 Check out these other hot stories:

DARPA looking to sling and recover drones from aircraft motherships

FBI: Major business e-mail scam blasts 270% increase since 2015

Attention whitehats, The FTC wants you to lead new privacy, security push

The ultimate auto-pilot software gets $15M boost

Big question of the day: Leonard Nimoy or not?

DARPA: Current DDoS protection isn’t cutting it

The weirdest, wackiest and coolest sci/tech stories of 2015 (so far!)

 

RELATED TOPICS
Must read: Cisco CEO Robbins: Wait til you see what’s in our innovation pipeline
View Comments
Join the discussion
Be the first to comment on this article. Our Commenting Policies