While cybersecurity poses a challenge for the Intelligence Community, especially in the post-WikiLeaks world, Director of National of National Intelligence Gen. James Clapper said the No. 1 priority for the intelligence apparatus remained al-Qaida.
“Counterterrorism is our top priority, because job one for the Intelligence Community … is to keep Americans safe and the homeland secure,” Clapper said in hearings before the House Select Committee on Intelligence last week.
Even so, the Intelligence Community has made progress against this threat, he said. “We’ve apprehended numerous dangerous actors throughout the world and weakened much of al-Qaida’s core capabilities, including its operations, training and its propaganda,” he added.
Along with the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, intelligence agencies are focused on cybersecurity threats, he told the panel.
“This threat is increasing in scope and scale, and its impact is difficult to overstate,” he explained. Estimates have put the production of malicious software at its highest levels yet, he said, with about 60,0000 pieces of malware or variations on it being identified each day.
“Some of these are what we define as Advanced Persistent Threats, which are difficult to detect and counter,” he warned.
Clapper noted that unauthorized disclosures of sensitive and classified U.S. government information also pose substantial challenges.
“Perhaps the most blatant example, of course, is the unauthorized downloading of classified documents subsequently released by WikiLeaks,” he said. “From an intelligence perspective, these disclosures have clearly been very damaging.”