McCain: US 'woefully unprepared' to fight Russian cyber attacks

Adm. Mike Rogers, head of the U.S. Cyber Command and the National Security Agency, says the U.S. is working with France and Germany to counter disinformation campaigns during elections. (May 9, 2017)
Associated Press

By DIANNA CAHN | STARS AND STRIPES Published: May 9, 2017

WASHINGTON — Russian meddling in elections around the world is not slowing, and the United States does not have full capability to defend its key infrastructure from their rapidly growing cyber threats, Adm. Michael Rogers, director of the national security agency and commander of the U.S. Cyber Command, acknowledged Tuesday.

In testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee, Rogers said there has been no reduction in Russia’s cyber attacks in light of its hacking of French elections May 7 and concerns of similar actions in the upcoming German and British elections.

Prodded by Committee Chairman Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., Rogers agreed that in order to defend against that kind of activity, the U.S. would need a full policy and strategy that integrates government agencies and departments.

“The team is working on that,” Rogers said. “I want to make sure we all understand that.”

“And the check’s in the mail?” McCain retorted.

McCain charged that President Donald Trump’s administration missed a self-imposed deadline to deliver a cyber strategy within 90 days of taking office.

“Our nation remains woefully unprepared to address these threats,” he said. “In short, unless the services begin to prioritize and deliver the cyber weapons systems necessary to fight in cyber space, we are headed down the path to a hollow force.”

Rogers said the U.S watched the Russians hack the French elections and warned authorities before the intrusions were made public when the emails of president-elect Emmanuel Macron’s campaign were dumped less than two days before the elections.

The attack echoed similar interference in U.S. elections last year after Russia hacked the emails of Democratic Candidate Hillary Clinton.

Painting a picture of a new kind of Cold War, Rogers said a force that will be able to combat that threat will have to integrate government efforts, be technically proficient and have a deep cognitive understanding of information warfare.

“As a nation, we need to acclimatize ourselves to the idea that we are in many ways back in a time of disinformation, false news … manipulation of the media,” he said.

When asked by ranking committee member Sen. Jack Reed, D-R.I., whether the U.S. had the expertise for this kind of cognitive warfare, Rogers said the U.S. dismantled those capabilities after the Cold War.

“Certainly we are not where we need to be,” he said. “We continue to make improvements both in capacity as well as in the deterrence piece.”

Twitter: @DiannaCahn

Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., shakes hands with U.S. Cyber Command and NSA chief Adm. Michael S. Rogers before a hearing in September, 2016.

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