US CENTCOM Commander: On Middle East Cyber Challenges

General Joseph Votel, Commander, U.S. Central Command, said the U.S. is looking to strengthen cybersecurity capabilities in the Middle East as a way of countering numerous adversaries.

Delivering a powerful, concluding keynote at the 8th Annual Billington CyberSecurity Summit Sept. 13, Gen. Votel said in his view Iran was the top threat to long term stability in the region. “They operate almost entirely in what we refer to as the gray zone, that space between normal international competition and armed conflict,” calling it “an area ripe for cyberspace operations,” and noting it was a dangerous space where miscalculations can occur.

Cyber attackers have a disproportionate advantage. “Today’s computers have overwhelming power that allows a single bad actor to create thousands of virtual machines to execute malicious activity globally,” he said. “Not all of our adversaries have tanks, fighter aircraft and warships, but they all have computers and they all have access to the web.”

Gen. Votel offered three takeaways:

* The first is the need for mission assurance in cyber space.

* Second, the approach to conflict in cyberspace is complicated by the geographically aligned command and control structure, which can challenge the agility in cyber space.

* Third, cyber will be integrated across all operations, but CENTCOM continues to be challenged by constrained resources including trained cybersecurity personnel.

Watch Gen. Votel’s keynote at the Summit here.