Will Cyberattacks Lead to Prolonged Conflicts?

Former Federal Advisers Richard Clarke and Robert Knake Discuss New Book
Will Cyberattacks Lead to Prolonged Conflicts?
Richard A. Clarke (left) and Robert K. Knake

There's good news and bad news about the current state of cybersecurity, according to Richard A. Clarke and Robert K. Knake, co-authors of the new book, "The Fifth Domain: Defending Our Country, Our Companies, and Ourselves in the Age of Cyber Threats."

"We need to separate what is happening with corporations, where the news is relatively good because the technologies are getting better and it is now possible if you spend enough to defend yourself," says Clarke, a former adviser on intelligence and counterterrorism in three presidential administrations. "We need to separate that good news from the bad news that governments are behaving badly - governments are engaging in increasing cyberattacks and boasting about it."

In an interview with Information Security Media Group, Clarke says he's concerned that more cyberattacks of a sufficient gravity will lead to kinetic responses and prolonged conflicts.

"We actually have had a government engage in a conventional or kinetic attack because of cyberattacks - the Israelis, frustrated by the cyberattacks on them by Hamas, flew F-16s and bombed the Hamas cyber facility," he points out.

The Need for Resilience

Clarke and Knake believe that the key to dealing with future cyberthreats can be distilled to a single word: resilience.

"The idea of resilience is ... you need to prepare for disruptions. You need to be able to recover from them and you need to learn from them and adapt from them and build societal mechanisms around them. ... And we contrast that with the concept of offense being the answer, of cyber deterrence being the answer," says Knake, a former National Security Council cybersecurity policy director.

In this interview (see audio link below photo), Clarke and Knake discuss:

  • What has changed in cybersecurity in the decade since the publication of their earlier book, "Cyber War";
  • The current contrasts of cybersecurity optimism in the public sector with cybersecurity pessimism in the private sector;
  • Why resilience is so vital to risk management.

Clarke served as a key adviser on intelligence and counterterrorism in the administrations of presidents Ronald Reagan, George H. W. Bush and Bill Clinton. Since leaving the public sector in 2003, he has taught at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University and consulted for ABC News on political and security issues. He now chairs the board of governors of the Middle East Institute.

Knake is a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, a senior research scientist at Northeastern University and an adviser to startups, investment firms and Fortune 500 companies. Knake served from 2011 to 2015 in the Obama White House as director for cybersecurity policy at the National Security Council.

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