Gen. Keith Alexander Says Russian Cyber Attacks Escalating, ‘More Blatant’

Gen. Keith Alexander Says Russian Cyber Attacks Escalating, 'More Blatant' keith alexander speaks while seated on a stage with a headset on Founder and CEO of IronNet Cybersecurity General Keith Alexander speaks onstage during TechCrunch Disrupt NY 2017. (Noam Galai/Getty Images for TechCrunch)

By Fran Beyer | Sunday, 30 May 2021 12:18 PM

The former director of the National Security Agency said Sunday cyber hacks by Russia over the last two years have been “more blatant” than he's ever seen, asserting the attacks are targeting information about the U.S. government and major corporations.

In an interview on ABC News’ “This Week,” Gen, Keith Alexander, former director of the National Security Agency, and the first commander to lead U.S. Cyber Command, said Russian hackers “are clearly after gaining intelligence on our country, on what the administration is doing… as they prepare, I think, for the upcoming stakes between President [Joe] Biden and [Russia’s President Vladimir] Putin.”

“They're stealing information… This is more blatant than I've seen in my career,” Alexander said. “They're going after this in the [2020] SolarWinds [cyber attack on Microsoft] … and the Colonial Pipeline.”

“I believe they're associated somehow,” he asserted.

Russia is “sending a message and they're doing it blatantly, and they're going after our intelligence system and they're saying, ‘we can do this.’ We've got to fix it,” Alexander said.

According to Alexander, the fix will have to be a public/private effort.

“We need to create a radar picture that shows attacks in time to prevent them,” he said. “Not talk about them after the breach, but prevent the attacks so we need to work this together as a team. This is part of our future, and we've got the get good at it, and we've got to do it quickly. Both Russia and China are challenging us in this space, and it's shown that we're not ready.”

In the same interview, former President Donald Trump’s Homeland Security adviser Tom Bossert called the cyber attacks a “wake-up call” that illustrate a “whack-a-mole issue” that needs to focus on protection for the “end points” being attacked.

“They're a wakeup call about the new normal we live in,” he said.

“It's only going to activate over time. That's a whack-a-mole issue… We have adversaries who are creative and bold, and they're using our laws and regulations against us to launch these attacks,” Bossert said. “So we need to take a different perspective. We need to have as [Alexander] said, a public private partnership.”

“If you get closer to the source, you end up with North Korea, Russia, China, Iran on the attacks and as you get farther on the end points, you get 3 trillion end points every day,” he added. “It's a difficult challenge… Whether it's an individual government agency or a pipeline operator, there's got to be a collective defense.”

Bossert warned Russia is doing more than just collecting intelligence.

“At this point there's evidence that they are carrying out their strategic intent to reduce the U.S in its influence and power,” he said. “They're trying to do things to destabilize us, and destabilizing big companies like Microsoft is just one way.”

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