NSA director: 'Encryption is foundational to the future'

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Increased connectivity and the Internet of Things exacerbate the challenges of cybersecurity, but it would be short sighted to stymie innovation in an attempt to become more defensible, said Adm. Mike Rogers, director of the National Security Agency and commander of the U.S. Cyber Command. The same goes for encryption technology, he said.

The technical foundations of the world that we are moving into make cyber defense more difficult, Rogers acknowledged during a Jan. 21 address at the Atlantic Council in Washington, D.C. But the responses and solutions must be "Built around the idea that this Internet of Things and the broad ideas that it represents are something foundational to our future," he said.

"It's a bit like encryption to me. Encryption is foundational to the future. 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," said Rogers. "Encryption is foundational to the future. So, what we've got to ask ourselves is, 'Given that foundation, what's the best way for us to deal with it?' And how do we meet those very legitimate concerns from multiple perspectives?"

During the event, Rogers said the notion of "Cyber Pearl Harbor" isn't totally analogous to the pivotal attack in 1941. That's because, even if a major cyberattack were catastrophic, it wouldn't have the same element of surprise.

In today's environment, a major cyberattack would not come as a surprise. "We are becoming increasingly numb to this kind of activity. It has just become so recurring, such a drumbeat. And for many of us, to date, it has been more of an inconvenience than a significant impact," said Rogers.

From hacked credit card accounts to larger events, such as the breach at the Office of Personnel Management, intrusions are becoming commonplace.

That said, Rogers added that just because it doesn't drastically impact the average American's everyday life, "I would urge you not to draw the conclusion that there's nothing here that you need to worry about."

"I would argue that it's going to get worse before it gets better," he said.

For more:
- go to the event page
- watch an archived webcast of the event

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