CIA director says his biggest fear is a massive cyberattack on critical U.S. infrastructure

( With little doubt there are a number of things that keep CIA Director John Brennan awake at night, and the growing cyber threat to the United States and the world is high on that list.

In a recent interview on the CBS News program “60 Minutes,” Brennan said preventing terrorist attacks has also been a top priority for his agency in recent years, but threats from the cyber domain have his utmost attention.

“That cyber environment can pose a very, very serious and significant attack vector for our adversaries if they want to take down our infrastructure, if they want to create havoc in transportation systems, if they want to do great damage to our financial networks,” said Brennan in the Feb. 14 interview.

“There are safeguards being put in place, but that cyber environment is one that really is the thing that keeps me up at night,” he added.

The CIA director went on to note that other countries have increasing capability to launch a major cyber attack against U.S. infrastructure like the power grid and American financial networks. But those nations may have the capability but not the intent, he said, adding that countries with intent to attack the U.S. in that manner do not currently have the capacity to do so.

“If they had the capability they would deploy and employ those tools,” said Brennan.

Brennan also discussed the challenge that encryption technologies are posing for law enforcement agencies. He said that in the lead-up to the terrorist attack in Paris, France, U.S. intelligence officials were aware that something was being planned but members of the Islamic State used “newly available forms of communication…that are walled off from law enforcement officials.”

He also talked about the recent hack of his personal AOL email account. He said the incident “shows that there are ways that an individual can get into the personal emails of anybody.”

The FBI and British police have arrested a 16-year-old in the United Kingdom last week in relation to that hack. Also, the teen is suspected of hacking into the Department of Homeland Security, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, and a number of other national security officials.

In the same interview, as reported by the Washington Examiner, Brennan also extolled the virtues of constitutional privacy protections, saying that people don’t value privacy enough and ought to be doing more to protect it.

“Privacy should never be dead,” he said. “It’s interesting that people always point to the government or others in terms of the invasion of privacy.

“Individuals are liberally giving up their privacy, you know, sometimes wittingly and sometimes unwittingly as they give information to companies or to sales reps,” he added. “Or they go out on Facebook or the various social media. They don’t realize, though, that they are then making themselves vulnerable to exploitation.”

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