Official says weak security hampers cyber efforts

WASHINGTON (AP) — International cooperation on developing better tools and methods to prevent cyberattacks is being undermined by poor computer security among U.S. allies, a senior Pentagon official said Tuesday.

The director of intelligence at the U.S. Cyber Command, Rear Adm. Samuel Cox, said sharing cybersecurity information with a friendly country that operates computer systems susceptible to penetration creates opportunities for adversaries to steal the data.

"Lots of intelligence (gathering) works in this fashion," Cox said at a conference on cybersecurity held at Georgetown University. "Don't go against the hard target. You go against the weak one and work your way in there."

Cox did not name any of the countries, although he said the problem does not apply to Britain and Australia, both large U.S. allies with more sophisticated systems for sharing and protecting information.

The top secret nature of the information is another factor that complicates cooperation.

"It's still an extremely difficult environment to try to navigate through," Cox said. "The bottom line is we're trying to accomplish our own national objectives as well as those of allied and friendly countries because it is a global problem."

A potential solution is to transfer sensitive U.S. technologies more quickly to allies, which would allow them to make their networks more secure. Steven Schleien, the Pentagon's principal director for cyber policy, said discussions are ongoing on how to accelerate the export control process.

"It's on our list of issues to look at," he said.

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