Director Of National Intelligence: Information-Sharing Key To Conquering Cyberattacks

Sharing real-time information about threats and exchanging ideas on lessons learned is critical in battling the rise in cyberattacks, say Avril Haines, the U.S director of national intelligence, in a keynote session at the RSA Conference.


Avril Haines, the U.S. director of national intelligence, is calling for stronger public sector-private sector partnerships to battle all sorts of cyberattacks that she says are “getting harder” to combat.

At the RSA Conference in San Francisco Monday, Haines spoke with Michèle Flournoy, managing partner of WestExec Advisors and the former Under Secretary of Defense for Policy from 2009 to 2012, as part of a series of keynote talks on the opening day of the conference.

Haines, whose Office of the Director of National Intelligence oversees 17 intelligence agencies within the U.S. government, was asked by Flournoy whether cybersecurity was getting harder or easier.

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Haines’s response: “I think cybersecurity is getting harder.”

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She then ticked off the increasing variety of cyberattacks, from nation-state hacks by Russia, China, North Korea and Iran to the rise of transnational cybercriminals.

The Importance Of Public-Private Partnerships

She said the breadth and complexity of modern cyberattacks are among the reasons why stronger public sector-private sector partnerships are necessary, such as sharing real-time information about threats and exchanging ideas on lessons learned about cyberattacks.

“[It’s] critical for us to keep those channels [of communication] open,” she said.

In the lead-up to the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the sharing of information among various partners, both domestic and foreign, was critical to U.S. intelligence agencies, according to Haines.

“The degree of sharing during this whole process has been pretty extraordinary,” she said.

Solutions For Cybersecurity Labor Shortage

Asked by Flournoy about the skilled labor shortage facing national intelligence agencies and the technology sector in general, Haines said she’d like to see more private-sector cybersecurity workers give public service a try.

Even though public-sector jobs don’t pay as much as private-sector jobs, she said people would enjoy the sense of mission and commitment of serving in an intelligence agency.

“We will not succeed if we don’t have [more] people like you,” she said.

As for Russian cyberactivities during its war against Ukraine, Haines, who is also the former deputy director of the CIA, alluded to what many observers have said is a surprising lack of aggressive cyberattacks by Russian and its allied hackers.

Haines said the war in Ukraine continues to unfold so it’s hard to assess what cyberwarfare lessons have been learned. “We’re still watching to see how Russia [acts during the conflict],” she said.