US spy chief highlights growing cyber threats

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US intelligence agencies have said cyber attacks from foreign governments and criminals are at the top of their list of cyber threats to the country.

Cyber threats a greater danger than terrorism

Online assaults would undermine US economic competitiveness and national security, said Director of National Intelligence James Clapper. That’s according to a new report issued by his office, which said that Russia’s military was creating a new cyber command to carry out attacks.

In the report, countries including China, Iran and North Korea as described as leading threats. But Mr Clapper said he didn’t believe the US faced a “cyber Armageddon” any time soon.

The concept that essential infrastructure such as financial networks or power grids could be disabled by hackers looks improbable, he said.

He did warn however that “We foresee an ongoing series of low-to-moderate level cyber attacks from a variety of sources over time, which will impose cumulative costs on US economic competitiveness and national security.”

Mr Clapper says that Russia poses the greatest cyber risk to US interests. He said that threat from the Russian government was “more severe” than anyone had previously realised.

He also states that profit-minded criminals and ideologically driven hackers are also increasingly active.

Cyber Threat - James Clapper

Director of US National Intelligence, James Clapper.

In the last year or so, there have been an increasing number of foreign attacks on US companies or government departments. North Korea was accused of stealing a huge amount of data from Sony Pictures in November, in response to the studio intending to release the comedy The Interview across cinemas in December.

RELATED: North Korea denies hacking Sony

Mr Clapper has also mentioned the alleged attack by Iran on the Las Vegas Sands Casino Corporation last year. Also, in January, Twitter and YouTube accounts of the US military command were hacked by a group that claims to back the Islamic State (IS). But the US has said it has its own “offensive capabilities”.

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