Admiral Rogers, chief of U.S. Cyber Command, seeks cooperation

Private sector cooperation with the government is key to successful protection against cyberthreats, says U.S. Cyber Command chief Michael Rogers in an address to RSA Conference 2016.

SAN FRANCISCO -- Citing the need for cooperation between the private sector and the government in combatting all kinds of cyberthreats facing the country, Adm. Michael Rogers, commander of the U.S. Cyber Command, said the Cyber Command was already partnering with universities, including Stanford University, University of California, Berkeley, and Carnegie Mellon University, in his address at RSA Conference 2016.

"We're brought together today by a broad common purpose," Rogers said. "You have people from industry here today, you have people here from academia, you have government, you have industry, you have technical individuals, you have those who generate products or services [and] you have those who do policy in a government."

"This is not going to get better any time soon, and it's going to require all of us to really do some hard, innovative work, because there's a lot of adversaries," he added.

Rogers said the U.S. Cyber Command has three primary missions: to protect military networks and systems; to build a dedicated workforce for applying cybercapabilities for both defense and offense; and, if directed by the president or the secretary of defense, to defend the private sector.

According to Rogers, the Cyber Command will be a "high-end cyber mission force" of 6,200 people "who will be applied across the breadth of the cyber missions."

Rogers said he wanted to find solutions that could merge the culture of the military with the culture of Silicon Valley. "It's the power of partnerships that I believe will generate the best outcomes," he noted.

As for coming threats, Rogers said three things worried him. First, he said it was a question of "when, not if" a nation-state actor will attack, as with the attack on Ukraine's power systems. Second, he said data theft, which has been the main concern in the past, may be bypassed by attackers who manipulate data, so "we can no longer trust the data we get." Finally, he noted that nonstate actors, such as ISIL, have used cyber to recruit, coordinate and acquire funding, but asked what happens when those same actors use cyber as a tool for destruction?

Rogers has been relatively outspoken this year, including his coming out in support of strong encryption, when he said "encryption is foundational to the future," while addressing the Atlantic Council. "So, spending time arguing about, 'Hey, encryption is bad and we ought to do away with it,' that's a waste of time to me."

While speaking to Yahoo News in February about the challenges the National Security Agency faces, Rogers said: "Does encryption make it much more difficult for us to execute our mission? Yes." However, he added, "I acknowledge that encryption is foundational to the future. I don't think the argument is you've got to do away with encryption."

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