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Why the US was unprepared for the 2020 cyber breach

They call it Einstein. It's the multibillion-dollar digital defense system the US has used to catch outside hackers and attackers since 2003. But it was no match for what's looking like one of the biggest cyber breaches in US history. Ian Bremmer breaks it down.

Watch the GZERO World episode: Cyber attack: an act of espionage or war?

Podcast: Was Russia's cyber attack an act of espionage or war?

Listen: Former US Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson spent years trying to protect the United States against the kind of massive cyber attack that Russia carried out against American businesses and government agencies in the last year. But at what point should we view such a breach as more than a remarkable feat of espionage? When does it constitute an act of war? Johnson joins Ian Bremmer to discuss.

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Does Jeh Johnson consider Russia’s cyber attack against the US to be an act of war?

"When I was at Homeland Security, I used to tell people to prepare and plan for the next attack, not the last attack. I used to try to encourage my people to think aggressively, to try to stay one step ahead of the enemy." Former US Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson spent years trying to protect the United States against the kind of massive cyber attack that Russia carried out against American businesses and government agencies in the last year. But at what point should we view such a breach as more than a remarkable feat of espionage? When does it constitute an act of war?

Johnson's conversation with Ian Bremmer was part of the latest episode of GZERO World, which begins airing nationally in the US on public television Friday, January 8th. Check local listings.

Quick Take: Russian cyber attacks, the Electoral College & Dr. Jill Biden

Ian Bremmer's Quick Take:

Hey everybody, Ian Bremmer here. Yet another week of your Quick Take. What the hell is going on?

Well, first, I mean, the news that we really didn't want to hear, these massive cyber attacks, almost certainly from Russia against the Department of Treasury, Department of Commerce and other places. So what do we make of this? Well first of all, this is not about timing to hit right before Biden becomes president. These attacks have been going on for months, we only just found out about them so they've been engaged. We could have found out after the election, before. The Russians were, in this case, they didn't know if Trump was going to win or not. They did it anyway. I think what's more relevant is that there are just an enormous number of vulnerabilities that the United States has in all of its critical infrastructure.

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Panel: Working together to protect cyberspace

Our October 14th livestream discussion, "Digital Peace: Trust and Security in Cyberspace," presented by GZERO Media — in partnership with Microsoft and Eurasia Group - focused on the need for a global framework to govern cyberspace.

The panel was moderated by Meredith Sumpter, CEO of the Coalition for Inclusive Capitalism, and included:

  • Marietje Schaake, International Policy Director, Cyber Policy Center, Stanford University
  • Marina Kaljurand, Member, European Parliament; Former Chair, Global Commission on the Stability of Cyberspace; Former Minister of Foreign Affairs of Estonia
  • Tom Burt, Corporate Vice President, Customer Security & Trust, Microsoft
  • Dapo Akande, Professor of Public International Law, University of Oxford

A major theme that emerged from the discussion is how the healthcare sector has become more vulnerable to cyberattacks due to the pandemic. But this sector also poses a major opportunity for governments and other actors to work together on protecting the world from such attacks — with huge resources already being mobilized to do so.

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