Home / Cybersecurity / Over a quarter of the members on Trump's cybersecurity advisory council have resigned en masse – Business Insider

Over a quarter of the members on Trump's cybersecurity advisory council have resigned en masse – Business Insider


Donald Trump
Donald
Trump.

REUTERS/Kevin
Lamarque


Eight out of the 28 members on the White House’s National
Infrastructure Advisory Council, which is responsible for
overseeing the US’ response to emerging cyber threats, resigned
last week. 

The letter that advisers — many of whom were Obama-era appointees
— submitted to the White House was published by
Nextgov
and cited several reasons for leaving, including
President Donald Trump’s controversial response to the riots in
Charlottesville that were sparked by white supremacists; Trump’s
decision to withdraw from the landmark Paris climate deal; and
his “insufficient attention” to possible cyber threats posed to
American infrastructure, including its election systems. 

Trump’s actions, the letter said, “have threatened the security
of the homeland I took an oath to protect.” It added that the
administration’s actions “undermine” the “moral infrastructure of
our Nation” which “is the foundation on which our physical
infrastructure is built.” 

Though Trump has at times spoken about addressing “the cyber,” he
has been reluctant to address perhaps the most pressing
cybersecurity threat the US currently faces: Russia.

Historically, the US “has been inadequate” when it comes to
addressing 

potentially devastating
cyberattacks

 from a nation state like Russia,
said Carbon Black national-security
strategist 

and former FBI counterterrorism
operative Eric O’Neill. “This inadequacy has carried over into
the current administration, where our president’s understanding
of technology is limited to Twitter,” he added.

Former FBI Director James Comey 
confirmed
 in
a hearing before the Senate Intelligence Committee in March that
the bureau was investigating Russia’s interference in the 2016
election, which the US intelligence community concluded was done
in an effort to tilt the election in Trump’s favor. Russia’s
meddling was multi-faceted and included cyberwarfare tactics
like hacking the Democratic National Committee email servers and
giving the material to WikiLeaks, as well as breaching US voting
systems in an effort to steal registration data that officials
say could be used to target and manipulate voters in
future elections.

After gaining access to the DNC’s system in 2016, Russian
hacking groups Fancy Bear and Cozy Bear disseminated thousands of
emails via hacker Guccifer 2.0, who leaked the information to
WikiLeaks. Cybersecurity experts at the intelligence firm
ThreatConnect linked Guccifer 2.0 back to Russia and concluded
the hacker was the product of a Russian
disinformation campaign
.

The US intelligence community “is confident that the
Russian Government directed the recent compromises of e-mails
from US persons and institutions, including from US political
organizations,” then-Director of National Intelligence James
Clapper and the Department of Homeland Security said in
joint
statement
 shortly after the first batch of emails from
the account of John Podesta, Hillary Clinton’s campaign
manager, were first leaked last year.


hillary clinton
Hillary
Clinton at her concession speech in New York.

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

In addition to hacking the DNC,
Bloomberg reported in
June that Russian hackers attacked election systems in as many as
39 states, though voting tallies are not believed to have been
altered or manipulated in any way.

The report was bolstered by a leaked NSA document published by
The Intercept earlier that month detailing how hackers
connected to Russian military intelligence had attempted to
breach US voting systems days before the election.
National-security experts were
floored
 by the document and said it was the
clearest evidence so far that Russia interfered in the election.

If Russia launches another cyberattack on the US, as the
intelligence community believes it will, critical infrastructure
like power grids, water supplies, and communication systems “will
likely be the first on the list for our enemies to attack in an
event of war,” O’Neill said.  

To be sure, Russia has increasingly emerged as a central
figure
 following a slew of high-profile cyberattacks
across the globe over the past few years. In addition to
interfering in the US election, Russia is thought to be the
culprit behind an elaborate effort to turn Ukraine into a
cyber-weapon testing ground.

Officials also believe Russia may have
been behind the “Petya”
cyberattack
 that crippled countries and
corporations across the globe.

Investigators have additionally linked Russia
to attacks on at least a
dozen US nuclear facilities. The hacks, though confined to the
enterprise side of the nuclear plants, raised red flags as they
could be a preliminary step toward an attack against the US power
grid.

Despite the growing threat Russia poses to the US, Trump and
Russian President Vladimir Putin discussed the
development of a joint US-Russia coalition tasked with combatting
cyber threats and boosting cybersecurity after last month’s G-20
summit.

Experts were baffled by the
“bizarre” proposal and said that by agreeing to a US-Russia
cybersecurity task force, Trump was implicating the US in
Russia’s propaganda and disinformation campaign. 

Following swift backlash against the idea, Trump said
he would not pursue
the coalition with Russia. 

Given Trump’s apparently limited understanding of the
rising threat of information and cyber-warfare, O’Neill said it
was “unfortunate” that a quarter of the members on the NIAC
resigned, adding that now that they’ve left the council, “they
simply don’t have a voice,” whereas before, “they could have
worked together to close security gaps.” 


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