Top cyber official says transformation needed in cyberspace

National Cyber Director Chris Inglis gives an opening statement during a House Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing on Tuesday, November 16, 2021 to discuss combating ransomware attacks.
Greg Nash

National Cyber Director Chris Inglis said Monday that the administration and federal agencies should prioritize transforming the way they approach and invest in cybersecurity, as previous efforts have “not worked.”

Ingles was speaking at cyber summit hosted by the Information Technology Industry Council on ways the public and private sector can combat cyber threats.

“I think that everything else that we have tried, as nobly intended, has not worked,” Inglis said. 

“And so in order for us to then change the nature of the game, I think that we have to crowdsource the adversaries the way they’ve crowdsourced us,” he added.

Crowdsourcing refers to bringing together actors to defend against a threat or attack a target. The Hill has reached out to Inglis’s office for more details on his comments.

Inglis also said that, despite some improvements in cyberspace over the years, the U.S. government has a long way to go to compete with its adversaries.

The Biden administration and some lawmakers have placed a renewed focus on cybersecurity following major disruptions, including the war in Ukraine, the SolarWinds hack and the Colonial Pipeline ransomware attack.

The Biden administration handed down an executive order last year aimed at improving the nation’s cybersecurity through initiatives such as threat information sharing between the government and the private sector, modernizing federal government cybersecurity standards, and improving software supply chain security.

At the summit, Inglis said the needed transformation will be built upon both government initiatives and better collaboration with the private sector. 

“That transformation is going to be built on the back of real work,” Inglis said.

“And outside [the government], we’re kind of pushing hard for the government to stand up to its role to collaborate with the private sector,” he added. 

In a recent congressional hearing, cyber officials said they have made progress on securing federal networks through methods such as two-factor authentication and encryption, though they too conceded there was more work to be done.

Inglis also warned Monday that cyberattacks, including ransomware, are enduring threats that will continue to persist and adapt. He said he’s had conversations with people asking “when can we stop” defending the country against cyber threats.

“Unfortunately, the answer is we’ll never not defend ourselves in cyberspace,” Inglis said. 

“The cost of entry for aggressors at this point is still far too low for us to essentially assume that this is over. And therefore we need … to continue to defend ourselves,” he added. 

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