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In Dallas, ex-CIA chief details growing cybersecurity threat

Posted Tuesday, Feb. 04, 2014  comments  Print Reprints
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Land, sea, air and space were considered the country’s top security battlegrounds for decades.

But in recent years, as technology has evolved, a fifth front has emerged — cyberspace.

“I don’t think we realize how much [cellphones and technology] have changed our lives,” retired Gen. Michael Hayden, former head of the CIA and the National Security Agency, told a crowd at the Hyatt Regency Dallas on Tuesday.

“Your armed forces now treat cyber as a domain,” said Hayden, a four-star general who spent nearly four decades in the Air Force. “The thumb is the largest … ungoverned space ever. This is a digital Somalia.”

Hayden spoke about “A Global Outlook” during a sold-out University of North Texas Kuehne Speaker Series on National Security before hundreds of listeners, including former Education Secretary Margaret Spellings and billionaire businessman H. Ross Perot Sr., who introduced him.

Perot described Hayden as a man who “worked to put a human face on the agency” when he served in the country’s notoriously secretive agencies.

Before Hayden took the stage, several UNT officials, including new President Neal Smatresk, spoke.

All in the name of security, Smatresk said he might elaborate about why “none of us should play Angry Birds on our phones again.”

While he didn’t speak about the game again, many in the audience believed he was echoing concerns voiced about how Angry Birds, and other applications, are being used to gather personal information — ranging from locations to website visits to contacts — by those monitoring tablets and mobile devices.

Security concerns

Hayden tried to sum up the world’s top issues in about half an hour.

He described China as an emerging power, Russia as a declining power, and the United States as a “status quo power.”

He noted general shifts in cultural beliefs and how confidence seems to wane regarding government secrecy.

At the same time, he said, U.S. intelligence agencies seem to be working together better to protect the country.

“No intelligence agency in the world shares as much as the American intelligence agencies,” he said. “We are better than anyone else.”

But the newest frontier — rife with both known and unknown cybersecurity concerns — presents an ongoing threat for this country and the world.

He said many people see events happening worldwide from cellphone videos posted online. Those videos, which give viewers an inkling of what’s happening in other areas, may be just a small indication of greater things to come.

“This is a new age,” he said. “This technological shift is as dramatic as anything our species has seen.”

For those gathered at Tuesday’s luncheon, Hayden offered a few pieces of advice.

“There is a lot going on out there. Stay informed,” he said. “See things as they are and draw the line.

“Buckle your chin straps,” he said with a smile. “It’s going to be a hell of a century.”

Anna M. Tinsley, 817-390-7610 Twitter: @annatinsley

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