The CIA Fears the Internet of Things

The battleground of tomorrow is everywhere at once.

National Journal
Patrick Tucker, Defense One
Add to Briefcase
See more stories about...
Patrick Tucker, Defense One
July 25, 2014, 11:57 a.m.

The ma­jor themes de­fin­ing geo-se­cur­ity for the com­ing dec­ades were ex­plored at a for­um on “The Fu­ture of War­fare” at the As­pen Se­cur­ity For­um on Thursday, mod­er­ated by De­fense One Ex­ec­ut­ive Ed­it­or Kev­in Bar­on.

Dawn Mey­er­riecks, the deputy dir­ect­or of the Cent­ral In­tel­li­gence Agency’s dir­ect­or­ate of sci­ence and tech­no­logy, said today’s con­cerns about cy­ber war don’t ad­dress the loom­ing geo-se­cur­ity threats posed by the In­ter­net of Things, the em­bed­ding of com­puters, sensors, and In­ter­net cap­ab­il­it­ies in­to more and more phys­ic­al ob­jects.

“Smart re­fri­ger­at­ors have been used in dis­trib­uted deni­al of ser­vice at­tacks,” she said. At least one smart fridge played a role in a massive spam at­tack last year, in­volving more than 100,000 in­ter­net-con­nec­ted devices and more than 750,000 spam emails. She also men­tioned “smart fluor­es­cent LEDs [that are] are com­mu­nic­at­ing that they need to be re­placed but are also be­ing hi­jacked for oth­er things.”

“The mer­ger of phys­ic­al and vir­tu­al is really where it’s at. If we don’t grok that then we’ve got huge prob­lems,” she said. Grok, a ref­er­ence to Robert A. Hein­lein’s 1961 nov­el Stranger in a Strange Land, de­scribes the tele­path­ic com­mu­nion of thoughts, feel­ings, and fears.

Smart cloth­ing, she said, could cre­ate se­cur­ity and ac­cess prob­lems, spe­cific­ally for the CIA. The same tech­no­lo­gies that could al­low mil­lions to bet­ter mon­it­or and man­age their health could cre­ate a trans­par­ency and work­place prob­lems that “Idon’t want to have to deal with.”

It has a sort of sci­ence-fic­tion­al flare, but Mey­er­riecks says there’s no ex­cuse for be­ing caught off-guard by tech­no­lo­gic­al events, or “punc­tu­at­ing tech­no­lo­gic­al dis­rup­tions” that are clearly vis­ible in trends today.

“The mer­ger of bio­lo­gic­al and cy­ber, those will be viewed as dis­ruptors al­though we all know they’ve been in­ves­ted in for dec­ades at this point. When someone fi­nally fig­ures out how to pro­duct­ize it in a way.” By way of an ex­ample, she brought up the cell phone, “When it goes from the brick to something I can’t leave my house without, then it’s dis­rupt­ive.”

In many ways that day has already ar­rived. Dick Cheney, formerU.S. Vice Pres­id­ent, told 60 Minutes that he had a wire­less pace­maker in­stalled in his chest in 2007 that would have al­lowed his doc­tor to mon­it­or his heart, on­line. He didn’t en­able the BlueTooth broad­cast­ing fea­ture for fear of it be­ing hacked. We have a hard enough time se­cur­ing com­puters on desks. We may already face the risk of an en­tire gen­er­a­tion of baby boomers be­com­ing vul­ner­able to leth­al cy­ber at­tacks be­cause of In­ter­net-en­abled med­ic­al devices.

Here are some oth­er takeaways from the dis­cus­sion:

The Eco­nom­ic War Is Afoot

When asked if the United States was already en­gaged in an eco­nom­ic war, with in­tel­lec­tu­al prop­erty as the prize, Mey­er­riecks re­spon­ded that “Ab­so­lutely, this the case.” That’s evid­ent in the fact that the U.S. is now su­ing five mem­bers of the Chinese mil­it­ary for what amounts to in­dus­tri­al es­pi­on­age, steal­ing trade secrets for per­son­al profit. It’s a law­suit against in­di­vidu­als, but the Chinese gov­ern­ment, as a whole, took it per­son­ally and sus­pen­ded par­ti­cip­a­tion in a joint China-U.S.cy­ber-se­cur­ity work­ing group.

Quantum Com­put­ing Won’t Save You

“On our best day we’re 20 years away,” Mey­er­riecks said of true quantum com­put­ing (defined roughly as com­put­ing that every­one in com­put­ing sci­ence can agree is ac­tu­ally quantum in nature, achiev­ing en­tan­gle­ment.) “When it hap­pens, we have a huge chal­lenge. We are mak­ing sig­ni­fic­ant in­vest­ments and pay­ing a lot of at­ten­tion,”

Steve Chan, the dir­ect­or of the Net­work Sci­ence Re­search Cen­ter at IBM who joined Mey­er­riecks on stage in As­pen, said that the search for the quantum Holy Grail was not only con­fused but largely un­ne­ces­sary. Quantum is gen­er­ally re­ferred to as com­pu­ta­tion that takes ad­vant­age of the unique be­ha­vi­ors of quantum bits, or qubits, to rep­res­ent in­form­a­tion in mul­tiple ways, as op­posed to ones and zer­os. “Nowadays,” he said “we can do cus­tom chip design so we can use bin­ary rules but three di­git rep­res­ent­a­tions that get ba­sic­ally the same value, with few­er di­gits, which saves com­pu­ta­tion­al cycles.”

Put Your Faith in Big Data

The threats and the op­por­tun­it­ies tech­no­lo­gic­al ac­cel­er­a­tion oc­cupy the same space.

When asked about the ma­jor in­vest­ment areas of the fu­ture, Lynn Dugle, a vice pres­id­ent at mil­it­ary con­tract­or Ray­theon en­thu­si­ast­ic­ally offered up big data and de­scribed the “op­por­tun­ity to know things, through cy­ber-ana­lyt­ics, through per­son­al ana­lyt­ics.” She cited a com­mon in­dustry fore­cast that more than 50 bil­lion ma­chine-to-ma­chine con­nec­ted devices will in­hab­it the globe by 2020 (ac­cord­ing to fig­ures from Cisco), versus ap­prox­im­ately 13 bil­lion today.

Call­ing Big Data a big op­por­tun­ity has be­come al­most “glib” ac­cord­ing to Mey­er­riecks. But it’s an area where the CIA is also fo­cus­ing its ma­jor in­vest­ments and build­ing the cap­ab­il­ity to do the sort of highly-tar­geted and in­di­vidu­al spe­cif­ic data col­lec­tion that would make today’s NSA activ­it­ies look pos­it­ively quant. It’s big data big data that “dwarfs today’s twit­ter feeds,” she said, and em­phas­ized that is was data spe­cif­ic to an in­di­vidu­al, not every­one, “that’s tar­geted col­lec­tion. Not ran­dom col­lec­tion.”

What We're Following See More »
TWO MONTHS AFTER REFUSING AT CONVENTION
Cruz to Back Trump
2 days ago
THE LATEST
WHO TO BELIEVE?
Two Polls for Clinton, One for Trump
2 days ago
THE LATEST

With three days until the first debate, the polls are coming fast and furious. The latest round:

  • An Associated Press/Gfk poll of registered voters found very few voters committed, with Clin­ton lead­ing Trump, 37% to 29%, and Gary John­son at 7%.
  • A Mc­Clatchy-Mar­ist poll gave Clin­ton a six-point edge, 45% to 39%, in a four-way bal­lot test. Johnson pulls 10% support, with Jill Stein at 4%.
  • Rasmussen, which has drawn criticism for continually showing Donald Trump doing much better than he does in other polls, is at it again. A new survey gives Trump a five-point lead, 44%-39%.
NO SURPRISE
Trump Eschewing Briefing Materials in Debate Prep
2 days ago
THE DETAILS

In contrast to Hillary Clinton's meticulous debate practice sessions, Donald Trump "is largely shun­ning tra­di­tion­al de­bate pre­par­a­tions, but has been watch­ing video of…Clin­ton’s best and worst de­bate mo­ments, look­ing for her vul­ner­ab­il­it­ies.” Trump “has paid only curs­ory at­ten­tion to brief­ing ma­ter­i­als. He has re­fused to use lecterns in mock de­bate ses­sions des­pite the ur­ging of his ad­visers. He prefers spit­balling ideas with his team rather than hon­ing them in­to crisp, two-minute an­swers.”

Source:
TRUMP NO HABLA ESPANOL
Trump Makes No Outreach to Spanish Speakers
2 days ago
WHY WE CARE

Donald Trump "is on the precipice of becoming the only major-party presidential candidate this century not to reach out to millions of American voters whose dominant, first or just preferred language is Spanish. Trump has not only failed to buy any Spanish-language television or radio ads, he so far has avoided even offering a translation of his website into Spanish, breaking with two decades of bipartisan tradition."

Source:
$1.16 MILLION
Clintons Buy the House Next Door in Chappaqua
2 days ago
WHY WE CARE

Bill and Hillary Clinton have purchased the home next door to their primary residence in tony Chappaqua, New York, for $1.16 million. "By purchasing the new home, the Clinton's now own the entire cul-de-sac at the end of the road in the leafy New York suburb. The purchase makes it easier for the United States Secret Service to protect the former president and possible future commander in chief."

Source:
×