As adversaries from overseas continue to threaten the cybersecurity of U.S. companies and organizations, National Security Agency (NSA) director and U.S. Cyber Command (CYBERCOM) chief Gen. Paul Nakasone told senators today that Defense Department (DoD) agencies need to be able to operate more freely within the U.S. to deal with those threats swiftly.

Currently, CYBERCOM and NSA operate outside of the United States as a matter of law that balances both privacy and security.

“The authorities within the United States reside with the [FBI] and others to do that type of surveillance” domestically, said Gen. Nakasone during a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on U.S. Special Operations Command and Cyber Command.

“What I’m identifying right now, though, is our adversaries understand that they can come into the United States and rapidly utilize an internet service provider, come up and do their activities, and then take that down before a warrant can be issued [and] before we can actually have surveillance by a civilian authority here in the United States,” he said.

“That’s the challenge that we have right now,” he stated.

Gen. Nakasone offered that there were several ways to look at closing this gap, including forging  stronger public-private partnerships, or legislation dealing with private sector companies understanding who their customers are.

According to Gen. Nakasone, the successes that Federal cybersecurity agencies had in 2018 and 2020 in protecting U.S. elections have not necessarily deterred foreign adversaries from continuing to launch cyberattacks, and operate below the level of armed conflict. He said that the government needs to be able to better see what’s going on within the U.S.

“We are operating in a space where our adversaries are not going to stop. They are going to continue to look for ways to steal our intellectual property, to steal identification, and to try to influence our populace,” said Gen. Nakasone. “We – at the same time – have to be forward, we have to be operating, and we have to be engaged with our adversaries and that’s what has been my focus for the past couple of years.”

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Jordan Smith
Jordan Smith
Jordan Smith is a MeriTalk Senior Technology Reporter covering the intersection of government and technology.