(CNSNews.com) – DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen said Monday that she’s more concerned about terrorists trying to hijack U.S. cyber networks than airplanes.
In a speech on the 2019 priorities of DHS in Washington, D.C., hosted by Auburn University, Nielsen said the nation still faces threats by “global jihadists,” but it’s also in danger from “transnational criminals, faceless cyber thugs and hackers and resurgent nation-state rivals.”
“The battle state is constantly in flux, flipping from the physical world to the virtual world and then back again all in the blink of an eye. Today I am more worried about the ability of bad guys to hijack our networks than their ability to hijack our flights, and I am concerned about them holding our infrastructure hostage, stealing our money and secrets, exploiting children online, and even hacking our very democracy,” she said.
“These aren’t wars that we can fight in slow motion through meetings, memos and endless discussion. If we don’t anticipate, adapt, and move quickly, we will lose. Period. The idea that we can prevail with so-called whole of government efforts is now an outdated concept. It’s not enough,” the secretary said.
“We need a whole of society approach to overcome today's threats. Why? Because it's not just U.S. troops and government agents on the front line anymore. It’s U.S. companies. It’s our schools and gathering places. It’s ordinary, everyday Americans,” Nielsen said.
The secretary said the country is more secure from the dangers of the past, but it is less prepared for the dangers that lie ahead.
“As a nation, we face a choice: shape the world around us or be shaped by it,” she said. “We are more secure than ever against the dangers of the last decade, but we are less prepared than ever for those that will find us in the next. That is why under this president and during this administration, we have made a decision to shape the world around us, to create an environment that is favorable to U.S. interests, to put America’s security first and to dramatically enhance the way we defend the homeland.”
The secretary said cyber terrorists are “weaponizing our innovation against us” and if the U.S. doesn’t quickly adapt, it will lose.
“Threat actors are mercilessly targeting everyone’s devices and networks. They are compromising, co-opting, and controlling them, and they’re weaponizing our own innovation against us. America’s not prepared for this. Your average private citizen or company is simply no match against a nation-state such as China, Iran, North Korea or Russia. It’s not a fair fight, and until now, our government has done far too little to back them up,” Nielsen said.
The secretary said the president has made homeland security “his number one priority – not number two, three or four.”
“It’s pillar one of the U.S. national security strategy, and as secretary of Homeland Security, I am running with that mandate to obtain the resources, to secure the authorities, and to execute the changes we need to fully transform homeland security and give the American people the protection they deserve,” she said.