Securing the digital front lines

Retired vice admiral warns that U.S. is losing the cyberwar.

Followers of U.S. Central Command’s Twitter and YouTube accounts found some unexpected activity Jan. 12, when ISIS sympathizers hacked both accounts and posted propaganda videos, unclassified military documents and threatening messages to U.S. soldiers.

In the world of cybersecurity, the hack was small time. Central Command described it as “cybervandalism,” a high-profile stunt that did little but garner headlines. More troubling is the recently revealed “FREAK attack” security flaw affecting Apple computers and phones, Windows-based personal computers, and older Android phones. The flaw potentially puts at risk any encrypted data sent over the Internet.

Retired Admiral McConnell

Retired Navy Vice Adm. John M. “Mike” McConnell, former director of national intelligence, speaks at 10 a.m. Thursday, March 12, in the Great Room of the Reynolds Alumni Center.

U.S. Vulnerability

The events are reminders of America’s vulnerability to cyberattack — a topic retired U.S. Navy Vice Adm. John M. "Mike" McConnell, former director of national intelligence, will address during the spring 2015 Christopher S. “Kit” Bond Lecture, 10 a.m. Thursday in the Reynolds Alumni Center Great Room.

“As Admiral McConnell has pointed out, the U.S is already fighting a cyberwar, and we are losing,” says former U.S. Sen. Kit Bond, whose friends and colleagues donated $1.3 million in 2009 to endow the lecture series in his honor. “We must act [to modernize our laws] before the headlines change from economic damage to the loss of critical infrastructure and the loss of American lives.”

National Security Expert

McConnell was national intelligence director under President George W. Bush and National Security Agency director under Presidents George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton. He now serves as a senior executive adviser at Booz Allen Hamilton, a government contractor, where he leads the firm’s cyber business.

The lecture series “fits perfectly with the mission of the Truman School to bring important issues of public affairs and policy to the forefront,” says Barton Wechsler, dean of the Truman School of Public Affairs, which hosts the program. “[McConnell] has had a unique set of experiences to share … and I’m excited to have him in Columbia.”

Subscribe to

Show Me Mizzou

Stay up-to-date with the latest news by subscribing to the Show Me Mizzou newsletter.