US has already lost to China in AI fight, says ex-Pentagon software chief

“Beijing is heading for global dominance because of its advances in artificial intelligence, machine learning and cyber capabilities, he said. Compared to China’s advancement, US cyber defences in some government departments were at the kindergarten level.

Chaillan blamed the reluctance of Goggle to work with the US defence department on AI. Chinese companies, on the other hand, are obliged to work with Beijing, and were making “massive investment” into AI without regard to ethics, he said to Financial Times.”

There’s a Big Gap in Our Cyber Defenses. Here’s How to Close It.

“The foreign hackers behind the massive cybersecurity failures dominating recent headlines had one critical strategy in common — they leased computers in the United States to burrow into their victim’s networks. Because U.S. cybersecurity systems don’t regard domestic connections as inherently suspect, the attackers were able to hide in plain sight. Like secretive investors deploying a series of shell companies and trusts to mask true ownership, Russia, China and other sophisticated nations effect cyber-maliciousness through a series of intermediary, innocuous-looking internet servers.”

“No government agency — even our powerful spy agencies — currently has a sufficiently agile legal authority to catch foreign cyber malefactors in the act of co-opting U.S. computer networks. The National Security Agency is allowed to surveil only foreign actors; pursuing them on the home front is the job of the FBI. But by the time the NSA notices suspicious foreign activity and hands the case off to the FBI, it’s often too late. The foreign malware might well have been injected into American networks, and the FBI investigation simply confirms that now-dormant internet servers in the U.S. were used by foreigners to stage their attacks.”

“The difficulty lies in resolving deeply felt concerns over any increase in government surveillance authority, no matter how important the purpose. We are also paralyzed by a sense of fatalism that cyber vulnerabilities are simply the price we pay for being online, and an erroneous belief that the Constitution stands in the way of any solution.
Most cybersecurity experts agree an effective public-private cyber information-sharing system is essential in stopping foreign cyber maliciousness before it causes too much damage. But information sharing isn’t enough; it would be hamstrung from the start if the government cannot seamlessly and quickly track malicious cyber activity from its foreign source to its intended domestic victims. If some government agency had that legal power, then it could, for example, quickly check out a domestic IP address after an alert from the NSA that the address was communicating with a suspicious overseas server. If that IP address showed questionable activity, the government and the private sector jointly could take steps to reconfigure firewalls or otherwise curtail the hack. Admittedly, this wouldn’t prevent hacks and attacks that were based on previously unknown software bugs (so called zero-day exploits). But the reality is that most large-scale hacks by foreign countries rely on already known software imperfections and hardware deficiencies.”

We Can Take Advantage of the Russian Hack. Here’s How.

“Russia, China and others knowingly exploit two fundamental gaps in our cybersecurity architecture. They acquire or co-opt domestic computers and cloud services as a platform to launch malicious cyber operations. They appreciate that our intelligence services are focused on cyber activities beyond our borders, and that these services are generally not allowed to track foreign mischief once it moves onshore. Moreover, the private sector — very much a component of our national security — is largely left to fend for itself against foreign cyberattacks, yielding a situation inconsistent with the federal government’s role of providing our “common defense” under the Constitution.
Addressing these gaps raises enormously complex legal and policy questions about the scope of government in protecting us from foreign cyber malevolence. Yet our understandable hesitancy in confronting these questions allows adversaries to continue to exploit the situation. We must start that discussion and consider how our foreign intelligence services could work with the FBI and CISA — in a manner fully consistent with our values and the Constitution — to pursue foreign cyber maliciousness when it involves using domestic parts of the internet.

To have prevented this hack, we would have had to piece together information from the intelligence community about Russian intentions and activity, link it to hints (from affected agencies or DHS) that some government systems had suspicious domestic internet connections, and then monitor those internet connections. Media reports indicate that the Russians used a domestic internet domain leased from Go Daddy, a reputable and popular host for web domains, to control the malware that was inserted in government networks. Normally a search warrant or other legal process, often taking days, is required before the FBI can fully review the traffic connecting with a suspected malicious internet site. None of the foregoing steps could, at least under current structures, have been taken in sufficient time to detect the attack in the first place; at a very minimum, we could be better structured to stop such attacks from spreading.

There is no single structural or legal solution to the problem of foreign cyberattacks. More robust sanctions against foreign adversaries and better international efforts to stop the export of cyber mischief and bring cyber criminals to justice will also help. Working with other like-minded nations, we need to raise the risks and costs of cyber espionage and cyber damage.

But steps like those outlined above are also needed to bolster our federal government’s defenses and to give us more robust tools to use against foreign cyber wrongdoers. That, along with more vigorous sharing with private businesses of otherwise classified information about the techniques of those wrongdoers, would go a long way to addressing the vulnerabilities of the private sector, and thus help fulfill government’s responsibilities in that regard. As if we needed an illustration of the private sector’s vulnerability, the recent sophisticated attack was undetected even by cybersecurity incident response firm FireEye, apparently itself a victim, with some of its cybertools used to test customer network security audaciously stolen by the intruders.”

We don’t need a separate cybersecurity agency

“we don’t need a new agency that will disrupt and distract a system that has many of the pieces it needs to succeed already in place. What we do need is better coordination, accountability and leadership to make sure that the federal government’s existing cyber expertise, assets and partners are engaged at maximum capacity to address the many varied and variable threats that will continue to emerge from cyber space.”