Centcom hack shows US fails to get ahead of hackers

Col. Cederic Leighton and Scott Greiper on the failure to protect key information


The attack by ISIS sympathizers on U.S. Central Command’s Twitter and YouTube pages is yet again raising questions about the security of America’s government and private sector information.  

While the specifics of the hack are still being analyzed, at this stage the attack does not appear to be a significant intelligence blow for U.S. officials.

“From a technical standpoint, it is not that big of a deal that they got into the Centcom Twitter account … but having said that, there is significant issue from a messaging standpoint,” explained former NSA deputy training director Cedric Leighton.

He noted Monday’s attack will cause investigators to look at “not only the technical part, but you are also looking at the ability to influence perceptions … and that’s what we saw, a really small hack snowball into a huge vulnerability for Centcom.”

Critics believe the U.S. is continuing to play defense against hackers.

“The U.S. government is playing defense, we are playing catchup and not leading, we are not getting ahead of the fight, “said Scott Greiper, president, of the advisory firm Secure Strategy Group. He believes American intelligence officials and their private sector counterparts are not thinking about the type of new attacks hackers use to get around their security systems.

Leighton points out, however, that being ahead of hackers is nearly impossible. “There are estimates of up to 315,000 new variants of malware appearing every day. There is no way, even if those were derivatives of existing malware – there is no way that any anti-virus model is going to be able to mitigate against all those different threats.”

The White House’s proposal for the private sector to share cyber threat information with law enforcement officials is offering a bit of hope to fix this problem. Yet some experts believe this doesn’t go far enough.

“It’s going to take leadership on part of the federal government so that [for example] Sony or the Department of the Defense knows that if they were attacked physically by a band of jihadists, the government would step in … it has to be the same on the virtual side,” said Greiper. “That sort of leadership of the federal government with the private sector, I think is the only answer here.”

Leighton added, “the virtual and physical worlds are coinciding with each other, they are becoming one in the same and our institutions need to understand that very fact.”

Chris Snyder is a producer for Fox News based in New York. Follow him on twitter: @ChrisSnyderFox