NSA Chief speaks candidly of Russia and U.S. election

Admiral Michael Rogers, commander of US Cyber Command, director of the National Security Agency (NSA) and chief of the Central Security Service, speaks during the Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association Cybersecurity Summit in Washington, DC, May 28, 2014. AFP PHOTO / Saul LOEB (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)

SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images

NSA Director Adm. Michael Rogers spoke candidly this week about the role of nation-states in affecting the outcome of the 2016 presidential election with cyber attacks.

“There shouldn’t be any doubts in anybody’s mind: This was not something that was done casually, this was not something that was done by chance, this was not a target that was selected purely arbitrarily,” Rogers said at a Wall Street Journal election forum on Tuesday. “This was a conscious effort by a nation state to attempt to achieve a specific effect.”

Rogers is most likely referencing Russia, since U.S. officials have already openly accused Russia of hacking into the Democratic National Committee’s internal email server in July. Similar “spearfishing” tactics were attempted, according to U.S. intelligence officials, in the breaching of Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta’s personal Gmail account. WikiLeaks distributed nearly 50,000 emails, revealing Clinton campaign strategy on everything from possible campaign slogans to the handling of the Clinton Foundation should the former secretary of state have been elected president.

The host of hackers is “so large and diverse,” Rogers said, that it’s difficult to identify perpetrators. The solution to countering possibly damaging cyber breaches, he added, is an integrated approach, one that champions collaboration between public and private sectors. Otherwise, it’s like “fighting with one hand tied behind your back.”

“My point is that cyber does not recognize these arbitrary lines that we have drawn--it doesn’t recognize the geography,” Rogers said to the Wall Street Journal’s Rebecca Blumenstein. “Network structures in the world wide web [are] not organized that way. Our adversaries don’t work that way.”

He also refuted the idea that the public should leave the burden of responsibility on the shoulders of network security specialists. The public needs to invest a personal interest in cybersecurity matters, as well, in order swing the pendulum from favoring privacy to a more balanced approach.

“You need to shape the discussion,” Rogers said. “I don’t pretend that this needs to totally dominate your life, but there is a significant role for you to play.” 

  • Julia Boccagno

    Julia Boccagno is a news associate for CBS News.