Nielsen warns US 'not prepared' for foreign cyberattacks

Nielsen warns US 'not prepared' for foreign cyberattacks
© Getty

Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen NielsenKirstjen Michele NielsenActing DHS secretary says he expects Russia to attempt to interfere in 2020 elections House Homeland Security rip DHS's 'unacceptable' failure to comply with subpoena Trump puts Kushner in charge of overseeing border wall construction: report MORE on Monday called for the U.S. to take on a “whole of society” approach to combat cyber threats, saying the U.S. “is not prepared” to handle hackers backed by other countries.

“It’s not just U.S. troops and government agents on the frontlines anymore,” Nielsen said at a speech at George Washington University. “It’s U.S. companies. It’s our schools and gathering places. It’s ordinary Americans.”

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) chief said that as hackers target the devices of all Americans, “your average private citizen or company is no match against a nation-state such as China, Iran, North Korea or Russia.”

ADVERTISEMENT

“It is not a fair fight,” Nielsen continued. “And until now our government has done far too little to back them up.”

American officials have pointed to hackers backed by countries like Russia, China and North Korea as presenting a major threat to the U.S., including potentially interfering in elections.

“Let me just send one last message to our cyber adversaries,” Nielsen said Monday. “You cannot hide behind your keyboards and computer screens, we are watching you. And no matter what malware you develop, I promise you, the engines of our democracy are far stronger and far more resilient than any code you can write.”

She also said her department is taking more steps to identify cyber threats within the supply chain. Authorities have repeatedly warned that technology manufactured in another country like China could pose a threat to national security.

And Nielsen said that DHS is increasingly working with the Department of Defense to address cyber issues, after she and former Defense Secretary James MattisJames Norman MattisFed chief issues stark warning to Congress on deficits Why US democracy support matters Hillicon Valley: DOJ indicts four Chinese military officers over Equifax hack | Amazon seeks Trump deposition in 'war cloud' lawsuit | Inside Trump's budget | Republican proposes FTC overhaul MORE signed an agreement last year to share more information about cyber incidents and operations.

“It has really helped us knit together and leverage each other's capabilities,” she said. “We analyze the threat together.”