"Red Alert" Warning on US Cyber-Attacks, Now at "Critical Point"

The United States' director of national intelligence issued a "red alert" warning on a dangerous new level of cyber-warfare during a Washington think tank conference. He also spoke of Russia as one of the "worst offenders" ahead of US President Trump's meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Finland. 

Dan Coats addressed the Hudson Institute last Friday, commenting: "Today, the digital infrastructure that serves this country is literally under attack." He compared the "warning signs" to the same ones "ignored" ahead of the September 11 terrorist attacks. 

"It was in the months prior to September 2001 when, according to then-CIA Director George Tenet, the system is blinking red. And here we are nearly two decades later, and I'm here to say, the warning lights are blinking red again," Coats said.

His comments were backed up on Saturday by John Podesta, the former chairman of Hilary Clinton's presidential campaign, who said to CNN: "As the director of national intelligence said, the red lights are blinking, but I think the White House is essentially asleep at the switch."

As well as China, Iran, and North Korea, Coats talked about Russia as being the "most aggressive foreign actor" and that they "continue their efforts to undermine our democracy." Targets for these attacks include the federal government, the US military, state and local government and U.S. businesses. He also talked about the risks to the 2018 midterm elections, but was quick to point out that it shouldn't be the only focus: "Focusing on the potential impact of these actions, on our midterm election, misses the more important point: these actions are persistent, they're pervasive, and they are meant to undermine America's democracy on a daily basis, regardless of whether it is election time or not.

"What's serious about the Russians is their intent," he continued. "They have capabilities, but it's their intent to undermine our basic values, undermine democracy, create wedges between us and our allies." 

The comments came the same day the Justice Department announced the indictment of 12 Russian military intelligence agents, accusing them of trying to hack Democrats' emails and computer networks during the 2016 election. 

Back in February, Crowdstrike CTO, Dmitri Alperovitch, told CNBC that the US government was exceptionally vulnerable to cyber-attacks, and despite its "very good" intelligence operations, their "procurement process is so archaic that they are not actually able to buy the technologies they need to protect themselves fast enough."

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