Energy and enemies | VailDaily.com

Energy and enemies

BEAVER CREEK — Cybercrime is much like other crime: People break into your place and steal your stuff.

"The Internet's original intent was to move large volumes of information between people — all of whom I know and all of whom I trust," said Gen. Michael Vincent Hayden.

It shouldn't surprise you that some folks floating around in cyberspace cannot be trusted. Vint Cerf invented the Internet, not Al Gore, so we can dispel that notion right now, Hayden said.

Hayden opened this year's Vail Global Energy Forum last weekend. He's a retired United States Air Force four-star general and former director of the National Security Agency, principal deputy director of national intelligence and director of the Central Intelligence Agency.

Hayden talked about cybersecurity, and while our government is doing what it can, which is "not a whole lot," Hayden said, we also need to protect ourselves.

"The speed of technology and the speed of government are different," Hayden said, as everyone in the room laughed knowingly.

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Also, Americans have a strong sense of civil liberties, and get prickly when they think they're being infringed upon, Hayden said.

"The Internet is American, egalitarian, accessible. It's us. Not everyone feels that way," Hayden said. "We want to defend the cyberdomain, but we don't want to destroy it in defending it."

What we do know, Hayden said, is what former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta stated clearly: We'll shoot back if something threatens significant loss of life or lasting economic damage.

"We don't appreciate how big this is and how disruptive it can be," Hayden said.

He equated it to the age of sailing and what it meant to European explorers.

"It's a new location, a domain, just like the Europeans discovering the New World," he said.

Hayden said that when he was helping run the Air Force, it was explained to him that the domains we now protect are land, sea, air, space and cyberspace.

Who launches cyberattacks

Hayden said cyber attacks are launched by three major entities:

• Nation states

• Criminal gangs

• Activist hackers

The Iranians attacked the Sands Casino's network. The Sands has supported Israel and its owners said some nasty things about Iran, Hayden said.

The North Koreans attacked Sony Entertainment.

"The Sony attack by the North Koreans got personal, right down to, 'I know what high school your daughter goes to,'" Hayden said.

Someone "used a weapon comprised as ones and zeroes" to spin some of Iran's nuclear centrifuges out of control to destroy themselves, Hayden said.

The Russians attacked Ukrainian power and blacked out 700,000 homes, except it likely wasn't exactly the Russian government.

"The Russians use criminal gangs to do their dirty work," Hayden said.

For the Russians, it's like the scene from "The Godfather," when a funeral director asks for protection from Don Corleone and the Godfather says, "I will grant you this protection, but I might come to you from time to time for a favor."

"Criminal gangs operate in Russia, but Don Vladimir sometimes comes to them for a service," Hayden said.

In the U.S., most of what we see is hackers stealing data from retailers and the occasional government files.

"Our government isn't quite saying it's the Chinese. I'm telling you, it's the Chinese," Hayden said.

The U.S. tends to give as good as it gets, but for a good reason, Hayden said.

"We are really good at this. We steal other people's stuff better than anyone on the planet. We steal stuff to keep you safe. Only four other nation states can say that. We self-restrain. A lot of other countries do not self-restrain," Hayden said. "If the Chinese are turning out all the lights on the eastern seaboard, that's a subset. There are other things going on."

Americans tend to be sloppy in our World Wide Web language, Hayden said.

"Attack? When we do it, we don't call it an attack," Hayden said.

Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 or rwyrick@vaildaily.com.

Vail Global Energy Forum

Presented by the Vail Global Energy Forum Foundation in partnership with the Stanford University Precourt Institute for Energy and the Stanford University Precourt Energy Efficiency Center, the fifth annual forum hosted leaders from around the world in an examination of the rise of North America and the future of energy, focusing on improvements in energy efficiency, sustainability, clean energy technologies, energy security and supply.