CIA chief: Cyber terror is the future

CIA chief: Cyber terror is the future
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If the U.S. wants to prevent the terrorist attacks of the future, it needs to turn its attention to the Internet, according to the head of the CIA.

Agency Director John Brennan on Friday warned about a new generation of terrorists that is increasingly able to communicate online.

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“Threats in the cyber realm are an urgent national security priority, as America has no equivalent to the two wide oceans that have helped safeguard our country’s physical, maritime, and aviation domains for centuries,” he said in remarks at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York.

“New technologies can help groups like ISIL coordinate operations, attract new recruits, disseminate propaganda and inspire sympathizers across the globe to act in their name,” he said, using an alternate acronym for the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

Groups like ISIS have shown an amazing ability to use the Internet and social media to their benefit in recruiting new acolytes and disseminating videos of beheadings and other acts of brutality.

According to the Brookings Institution, at least 46,000 Twitter accounts are associated with ISIS supporters, many of which have helped make the terror group a household name. 

At the same time, the Internet has also given groups like ISIS and foreign nations from Iran to North Korea new avenues to attack the networks of the U.S. and its allies, whether it be last year’s massive hack at Sony Pictures or the casino empire of gambling magnate Sheldon Adelson.

Government agencies are "under constant assault" from hackers, Brennan said.

To respond to those threats, Brennan last week ordered a major restructuring of the CIA that will put more emphasis on cyber operations and break down the traditional walls between operations and analysis. 

Among other changes, the shakeup will create a new digital innovation office at the CIA to make sure that officials across the agency are mindful of their new cyber powers. The office is the first new directorate the CIA has created in 50 years. 

The move is “an organizational response to the simple reality that, in today’s interconnected world, we must place our activities and operations in the digital domain at the very center of all our longstanding mission endeavors,” Brennan said on Friday.