CIA chief: Internet of Things, infrastructure attacks are big security headaches

CIA Director John Brennan says catalog of front-burner issues CIA faces is truly staggering

CIA Director John Brennan told an audience that when he served at the White House, "I must admit that after a while, just hearing the word "cyber" was enough to make my head hurt."

Indeed his headaches must be larger now that he is the CIA chief.  As part of a wide-ranging talk at President Barack Obama's Associates Dinner at the University of Oklahoma on the challenges facing the CIA Brennan said the "catalog of front-burner issues is truly staggering-terrorism, weapons proliferation, cyber threats, war in Afghanistan, the conflict in Syria, tensions on the Korean Peninsula, and the list goes on and on."

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"Terrorists, criminal networks, weapons proliferators, state actors-all of them are entrenched in the digital domain, " Brennan said.  "For example, we are seeing a greater interest on the part of our cyber adversaries in critical infrastructure. The systems that help manage oil and gas pipelines, water distribution networks, and electric power grids are attractive targets for cyber attacks.  Some of the newer systems include safeguards that help protect against the threat, but a large amount of the 'legacy' infrastructure is vulnerable. A successful attack on these systems could disrupt lives and have a significant impact on our economy."

Brennan said the CIA is also are concerned that new vulnerabilities will develop as cars, home appliances, and other physical objects become more integrated into information networks.

"As we move closer to what some are calling an "Internet of Things," there will be more devices and systems to protect-and, equally worrisome, more that can be used to launch attacks," Brenna stated.   "And most imminently, there are the ongoing threats to businesses-the efforts to intercept communications, shut down networks, and harvest know-how from American companies-including companies in Oklahoma {where the speech took place]. These efforts are becoming increasingly sophisticated, and they pose a growing challenge to both the competitiveness of American industry and the prosperity of our economy."

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