Kerry Just Proved That US Cyberdefenses Are Too Weak

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U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said that Russian and Chinese hackers are most likely reading his emails, and he writes things “with that awareness.”

“It is very likely,” Kerry said Tuesday in an interview on the TV show ‘CBS Evening News’ when asked by the host Scott Pelley if he believes whether Chinese and Russians are reading his emails.

“Unfortunately, we’re living in a world where a number of countries, the Chinese and Russians included, have consistently been engaged in cyber attacks against American interests, against the American government,” Kerry told the host, adding that “it’s an issue that we recently raised very, very strongly in our dialogue with the Chinese.”

When asked about his personal email, Kerry said he does not rule out that possibility. Afterwards, the host pressed Kerry to elaborated, and he said that “it’s very possible … and I certainly write things with that awareness.”

It was reported this week that the U.S. government believes that Chinese hackers have been reading personal email accounts of top U.S. officials for over five years, since 2010.

Although the private email snooping still has not been confirmed by the U.S. government, a number of key unclassified computer networks of the government were attacked by hackers in the past year, including the State Department and White House, in which hackers reportedly read U.S. President Barack Obama’s unclassified emails. The cyber attack was traced back to the Russian government.

Russia managed to hack the Pentagon

Just recently, it was reported by ValueWalk that Russian hackers are suspected to have carried out a ‘sophisticated cyber attack’ into an unclassified Pentagon email system.

U.S. military officials said that Russian hackers carried out the cyber attack that targeted  computers of unclassified Pentagon email system on July 25 and affected about 4,000 military and civilian personnel of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

The email system is commonly used by employees of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, which coordinates and oversees operations of U.S. armed forces,

U.S. military officials added that they suspect that Russian hackers coordinated their actions through Twitter accounts.

About two weeks after the cyber attack, investigators concluded that the complexity and sophistication of the cyber attack suggested that a foreign government was behind it.

Although the cyber attack exposed only unclassified emails and the damage was not so critical to the U.S., it is still alarming that hackers – both Russian and Chinese – can infiltrate into the U.S. most sensitive government networks so easily.

The cyber attack follows a number of infiltrations into key U.S. government computer networks, in which Russian and Chinese are suspected to be responsible for.

John Kerry: Obama will ask Xi Jinping about hacking in September

Kerry pointed out that Washington has raised concerns about cyberespionage with the Chinese in direct talks. The issue is also expected to be discussed during the talks between U.S. President Barack Obama and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping in September.

Kerry also said that spying has been around for centuries, and the latest means of spying is cyberespionage. “Companies spend billions of dollars to protect themselves, the United States government does the same. We are deeply involved in fighting back against this on a daily basis.”

U.S. officials suspect China of being behind a cyber attack, revealed in June, but stop short of formally accusing Beijing. The June cyber attack targeted massive amounts of personal data at the Office of Personnel Management. The breach targeted personal information of 22 million Americans.

After the cyber attack, U.S. officials expressed their concerns that such a massive data breach may lead to major revelations about the espionage network of the U.S.

The topic about the attack was then raised at the Strategic and Economic Dialogue held between the U.S. and China in Washington in late June. Beijing said claims that it was responsible for these attacks are groundless and that the government is opposed to all forms of cyberespionage.

However, the U.S. could not press on China during the talks as Washington had not formally blamed Beijing of carrying out the cyber attack nor had it presented solid evidence of the Chinese government being responsible for the attack.

Some U.S. officials then explained the decision that such accusations and evidence would disclose some details about U.S. cyberdefenses.

Why does the U.S. has to be ‘soft’ about it?

As a response to the increasing number of cyber attacks against Washington, U.S. officials said they were developing ways to beef up the security of computer systems of the entire government. It is also expected that the recent cyber attacks are likely to entails some personnel changes as well as thorough investigation of the efficiency of U.S. government’s cyberdefenses.

According to The New York Times, Obama ordered to deal with cyber attacks creatively. The only thing is to choose the most ‘creative’ option among the ‘creative’ set of options: from a diplomatic note to a large-scale cyber attack followed by publishing secret Chinese documents online.

Another option that the U.S. is considering is to breach the so-called great Chinese firewall, which filters all passing through traffic.

The U.S. media also reported that this subject is actively discussed by a large number of special services, but they cannot reach a common ground on the issue. The meetings reportedly included agents from the National Security Agency, the commander of U.S. Cyber Command and a division of armed forces that is responsible to the strategic command of the U.S.

The U.S. is careful not to respond too aggressively as it might entail an all-out cyberwar. The goal the U.S. pursues is not to escalate the conflict, but to scare the enemy away. However, it’s yet unclear how could it be done the most careful, yet ‘creative’ way.

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