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Charlie Rose Talks to General Keith Alexander

“We’re the nation that created the Internet. We ought to be the first ones to secure it”

Where is cyberwarfare in its evolution today?
The technical capabilities of cyberspace have grown so rapidly that they have quickly overwhelmed countries’ ability to defend their networks—and in our case, the Defense Dept.’s ability to defend its networks—as the tools for communicating in a digital realm have just exploded. And what you see today are countries, individuals, and groups exploring the ability to do reconnaissance on the networks. What that really represents is the initial stages. That’s where we are. We have to first ensure our defense and be prepared to do this quickly.

The number of cyber-intrusions is rising. Some are thefts, some is corporate espionage, some have to do with nation-states. Do you see that last element increasing significantly?
We do, across the board. [Internet security company] McAfee has some great numbers on the pieces of malicious software out there. It has grown to 55,000 a day, I think. And when you think about that, that is a huge number of unique pieces of malware, which means software that adversaries, whether it’s a hacker or a nation-state, can use to penetrate a network. It’s interesting when you think about it, because all the devices have potentially unique operating systems that have unique vulnerabilities. Today the offensive actor has the advantage. They only need to find one vulnerability to exploit a network.