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CYBERCOM and NSA chief: Cybersecurity is a team sport

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Many of today’s biggest cyber challenges threaten collective interests and must be met with continued collective action.

In this era of strategic competition, foreign states use cyber operations to steal information, influence populations and damage industry. The threat and the impacts are shared: our adversaries target everyone — government, industry, civil society and more — and cybercriminals ransom and hold hostage our businesses, both large and small, and threaten critical infrastructure relied upon by millions.

In the future, mutual collaboration between the public and private sectors is required for a safer, more secure online environment for all Americans.

U.S. Cyber Command and the National Security Agency seek to meet this evolving threat by strengthening our capability, readiness and resilience. We do this, in part, by playing the away game. USCYBERCOM stands toe to toe with a broad spectrum of adversaries in cyberspace. We defend the Department of Defense’s global information network, conduct operations across the defensive and offensive spectrum, and provide cyberspace options to the defense secretary and combatant commanders that are increasingly critical in an era of strategic competition.

NSA’s cybersecurity mission is to prevent and eradicate threats to national security systems, the Department of Defense and critical infrastructure, focusing on the defense industrial base. NSA leverages its “superpower” of foreign signals intelligence, vulnerability analysis and technical expertise to execute its mission.

Cybersecurity is a team sport: the scope and scale of the problem are too large for any single organization to tackle alone. The private and public sectors, including state and local colleagues, must increasingly rely on and complement one another to combat these threats and improve collective defense.

While the federal government is tasked with coordinating and leading the fight, more than 85% of the nation’s critical infrastructure, including cyber and communications networks, remains in private hands. As such, we work every day to enhance transparency while integrating effectively with private sector cybersecurity professionals. Together, we aim to achieve a common objective, and one of USCYBERCOM and NSA’s most important mission areas: defend the nation.

In light of the breakneck pace of disruptive technologies, particularly in machine learning and autonomous systems, USCYBERCOM and NSA are not alone in facing today’s challenges, or in the need to identify solutions for tomorrow’s problems. That’s why USCYBERCOM and NSA’s investment in technical outreach with academia, industry and international partners is collaborative and already paying dividends.

Through NSA’s newly launched Cybersecurity Collaboration Center, the agency engages with the private sector to prevent and eradicate threats to national security systems, the Department of Defense and the defense-industrial base. This center shares threat information with our U.S. government partners to assist in their efforts to protect critical infrastructure, providing a comparative advantage in its ability to provide actionable, foreign cyberthreat information to prevent and eradicate cyberthreats. The cyberthreat intelligence that NSA develops as part of its signals intelligence mission is a key driver in bidirectional information exchanges.

Working with the Maryland Innovation and Security Institute at our DreamPort collaboration facility, USCYBERCOM will increasingly pursue “What if?” scenarios, partnering with industry and academia in the speculative development of tools and technology. For example, adversaries can use machine learning to create wholly artificial yet convincing online content, known as “deep fakes.” To detect and expose this false content, USCYBERCOM must bring its own machine-learning techniques and capabilities to bear. Manual analysis alone is insufficient to counter the material generated at the speed and scale of our adversaries.

The increasingly high-profile threat of ransomware targeting our nation’s critical infrastructure is another national security challenge that must be met with a global societal approach. Part of that approach is the DoD’s “defend forward” strategy, implemented by USCYBERCOM persistently engaging in cyber campaigns to deter, deny and disrupt adversarial activities. Combined with contributions from our partners, our cyber effects mission is powerful.

Maintaining a safe and secure online environment for all Americans is a collective interest; enjoying the benefits of this environment requires speed, agility and unity of effort. The challenges USCYBERCOM and NSA face today in cyberspace are not ours alone — from simple cyberattacks to ransomware to espionage, all of society must defend against malicious cyber incidents. This evolving environment is a common threat to us and a common cause we can rally behind.

As threats continue to evolve, so will the innovative approaches we use to counter them. With cyber as a team sport, today’s challenges can be tomorrow’s opportunity for shared, successful solutions.

Gen. Paul Nakasone leads U.S. Cyber Command and the National Security Agency.

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