William Lynn III: Cyber attacks, from theft to disruption and soon destruction

Video: “Something like this will happen,” says former deputy secretary of defense William J. Lynn of Washington Post Live’s simulation cyber attack. Lynn recounts that the cyber threat used to be theft of information or theft of money. “We’ve now moved up to disruption,” he says. “The third level is actual destruction. I think it’s reasonable to believe that we’re moving in that direction.”

As part of its 2013 Cybersecurity Summit, Washington Post Live convened leading national security officials, industry experts and journalists for conversations addressing cyber risks and the future of cyber defense.

William Lynn III, former U.S. deputy defense secretary; chief executive, DRS Technologies

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Ancient Roman costumed groups of people parade in the ancient areas of Colosseum , Circus Maximus and the Roman Forum to celebrate the festivities of Christmas of Rome, in Rome, Monday, April 21, 2014. Legend says that Rome was founded by Romulus in 753 BC in an area surrounded by seven hills. Every year the city celebrates the Birth of Rome with parades and fighting in costume, re-enacting the deeds of the great ancient Roman Empire. (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini)

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Two trends are converging. It used to be the focus of cyber-intrusions was theft of information, theft of data, theft of money. We’re seeing a lot now of disruption ... and we’re on our way to actual destruction. The other trend is cyber-capabilities, like most sophisticated military capabilities, were [once] the province of sophisticated nation-states. That’s getting less and less true. A dozen guys in flip-flops and with Red Bull getting stuff off eBay can pose a significant threat. When those two trends converge — greater destructiveness of cyber-intrusions and greater maliciousness of the potential actors — we’re going to see some sort of attempt on U.S. infrastructure.

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