Top Tech CEOs sobered by classified US security briefings

In 2010 a classified cyber security briefing brought the realities of cyber war to top tech companies CEOs in an attempt to have them deal with perceived vulnerabilities.

The secret session was hosted by General Keith Alexander, head of the U.S. military’s Cyber Command along with the office of the Director of National Intelligence and the departments of Defense and Homeland Security.

This briefing was just one of up to three hosted a year in Washington D.C. that brings chief executives from top technology companies and the U.S. government together as part of the “Enduring Security Framework” public-private partnership. This partnership, launched in 2008, was formed to share information about the latest cyber warfare development.

Executives are left startled afterwards and receive information which “scare the bejeezus out of them,” according to one of the U.S. government participants.

Cyber Weapons Discussion

During the briefings, many computer attack tools are discussed. Not only are those developed in other nations mentioned, but also those developed by the United States themselves.

Some information on these cyber weapons, developed by the National Security Agency and the Cyber Command for the use against U.S. adversaries, was shared with CEOs as the government feels they need to know what needs to be defended against in the world of cyber warfare, especially if these tools had to fall into enemy hands.

Working Together

At one point during the briefing, one of the government participants stated, “We can turn your computer into a brick.” What he was referring to was a design flaw in U.S. computers where someone could update the computer firmware and make the computer useless.

While aware of the flaw, computer manufacturers hadn’t realised that someone could use it to actually destroy a machine. They promptly had their computers reconfigured to fix the flaw.

This is just one example where co-operation between the government and industry executives can pay off in a real way for American society.

Now, because the Enduring Security Framework collaboration is limited to just a few executives, there is the concern of sharing information on a bigger scale. Proposals to meet this concern are a key part of cyber security legislation being considered in Washington and could lead to a more beneficial trend of working together.

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