China, Russia, Iran and North Korea pose the greatest threat to America’s cybersecurity, U.S. Navy Admiral William Fallon said Wednesday at USC Aiken’s Signature Speaker Series.
A four-star admiral and chairman of the cybersecurity company CounterTack, Fallon said those four countries present the most significant challenge in the effort to protect the nation’s electronic data from unauthorized access and use. He was the first Navy officer to head the U.S. Central Command.
Fallon said China presents “the biggest challenge” to U.S. cybersecurity but not necessarily a threat.
“Look at the size of China. Look at the population,” Fallon said. “This is a growing, powerful county, and they, in my opinion, want to assume what has historically been a position of dominance in Asia.”
Chinese emphasis on unauthorized activity “in the digital domain has been economic,” Fallon said.
“It’s all about the economy,” he said. “That’s what they’ve been after, and that’s what they’ve been very successful in getting from us because, frankly, we weren’t paying attention.”
Russia is “in a different league all together,” Fallon said.
“Putin is not particularly well behaved,” he said. “The Russians are probably the most clever, the most experienced. They’re really good.”
Fallon called Iran a “revolutionary organization.”
“They want to change the balance of power in the Middle East. It’s that simple,” he said. “They’re not going to change their stripes any time soon. They’re after it. They’re Messianic. It’s a revolution. This is not let’s cut a deal.”
Fallon added that Iran is “pretty good but not the same level as the Russians or the Chinese.”
Fallon called North Korea “an incredibly malicious regime, starving and brutalizing their people” but added that its leaders are also “pretty clever,” especially referring to the country’s recent missile launch.
“You know this is coming,” Fallon said. “I think everybody knows that with the new administration the bad actors of the world are going to test to see what they can get away with and how we’ll deal with it. So the first test just occurred with Kim Jong-un firing some kind of missile, which is absolutely prohibited by Security Council resolutions.”
Fallon said that terrorists also wage cyber warfare, especially to propagandize.
Despite all of these threats to cybersecurity, America cannot not give up, Fallon said.
“Are we going to go home and cry?” he asked. “I don’t think we should. Why? Because this country is phenomenal. We can do anything we want to do. Our people can do anything we want to do.
“We’re blessed with the greatest gifts and capabilities of any nation state in the world, and what makes it so is our democratic system and the motivation, the ingenuity and the initiative of our people. We can do anything we want.”
To end, Fallon said that young people especially will lead in finding solutions to help America protect its digital data.
“Students, you’re the answer,” he said.
Meredith Hawcroft, a senior English major from Nashville, said she enjoyed hearing Fallon’s perspective on cybersecurity.
“We’re in an age when technology is becoming ever present, so the issues that come with that technology as it relates to society are going to rise as well,” she said.
Hawcroft, who is a Chancellor’s Ambassador at USCA, said she’s empowered knowing that her peers will lead the way in keeping America’s cyber information safe.
“I trust them to lead the way to help protect us from these issues,” she said.