Warrent Officer Mike Tillery watches as Spc. Christine Kaipat sets up a connection during Cyber Endeavor, a smaller exercise within Combined Endeavor 11 in Grafenwoehr, Germany, Sept. 14 2011.

Warrent Officer Mike Tillery watches as Spc. Christine Kaipat sets up a connection during Cyber Endeavor, a smaller exercise within Combined Endeavor 11 in Grafenwoehr, Germany, Sept. 14 2011.

Since the 9/11 terror attacks, the U.S. has quietly been developing an army that fights with keyboards, not guns. The military now views cyberspace as the “fifth domain” of war: This year alone, spending on cyber defense will top $13 billion. But even as virtual warriors and their private-sector partners secure U.S. computer networks, hackers find ways to compromise critical programs. We talk with Daily Beast national security writer Shane Harris about battles on the front lines of cyberspace, and how the mushrooming “military-Internet complex” affects our personal data and privacy.

Guests

  • Shane Harris Senior Correspondent, The Daily Beast; Author, "@War: The Rise of the Military-Internet Complex

Read A Featured Excerpt

Excerpted from @WAR: The Rise of the Military-Internet Complex by Shane Harris. Copyright © 2014 by Shane Harris. Used by permission of Eamon Dolan Books / Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.

 

Transcript

  • 12:26:59

    MR. KOJO NNAMDIThe 1983 movie, "War Games," imagined a nightmare scenario where a hacker infiltrates U.S. military computers and leads the country to a nuclear showdown. Today we laugh at that film's bulky mainframes and Cold War references. But the central plot remains a terrifying possibility. In fact, since the 9/11 terror attacks the U.S. government has been quietly deploying an army that uses keyboards, not guns, to detect, deflect and launch cyber-attacks.

  • 12:27:26

    MR. KOJO NNAMDIThese cyber warriors, along with their private sector counterparts, will account for more than $13 billion in defense spending alone this year. But these silent soldiers don't just defend us against enemies, they also spy on you. It's a booming business that's so completely changed the state of war and our own privacy that national security writer Shane Harris has dubbed it "The Military Internet Complex." For more than a decade he has tunneled deep into the front lines of this fifth domain of war.

  • 12:27:57

    MR. KOJO NNAMDIHe joins us to discuss how cyber space is redefining national security and our own security. Shane Harris is senior correspondent with the Daily Beast and author of the book, "@War: The Rise of the Military Internet Complex." He's also author of, "The Watchers: The Rise of America's Surveillance State." Shane Harris, good to see you again.

  • 12:28:16

    MR. SHANE HARRISHi, Kojo. Thanks for having me back.

  • 12:28:17

    NNAMDIYou can join this conversation if you have questions or comments, at 800-433-8850. You've spent more than a decade covering cyber security and surveillance within the government and the private sector. But despite the immense growth and sophistication of U.S. cyber operations, your latest story about the militant group ISIS turned your beat, in a way, on its head. You reported it the Daily Beast that the military has struggled to track ISIS because the group has essentially gone offline. How has ISIS shaken up U.S. intelligence gathering?

  • 12:28:50

    HARRISWell, they figured out very astutely that the one way we try to find people is by monitoring their cellphones and their communications and where they send tweets from. ISIS has been, of course, you know, very adept at social media. We see the way they've used it for propaganda and recruitment. They've also put out the word to their followers, stay off the cellphone. They've enforced that through the ranks of the organization. They've taught them how to remove the geotag in a tweet that shows where you send it from.

  • 12:29:15

    HARRISThey're using encryption to shield their communications now. I was told by one former U.S. official they're even using a device that allows their messages to be deleted practically as soon as they're sent, so that they can't be captured by the United States. So they've effectively stayed offline to avoid being targeted. And it hasn't been foolproof, but this has been one of the reasons why it has been harder to find those members.

  • 12:29:37

    NNAMDICarrier pigeons, couriers? They're also using…

  • 12:29:39

    HARRISCouriers. They're using couriers. They are using couriers. Taking a page from Osama bin Laden, too, I think, who, you know, was living in a house with no internet access.

  • 12:29:47

    NNAMDIAnd he was using couriers. How are intelligence agencies getting around this problem without putting boots on the ground?

  • 12:29:52

    HARRISWell, it's going to be really hard, I think, to attack ISIS without having those boots on the ground. I mean, when we've done these kind of operations more effectively -- particularly in Iraq in 2007 -- you had the intelligence being fed to the combat troops who could then follow up on these leads that these, you know, the NSA hackers and the spies were getting.

  • 12:30:11

    HARRISAbsent those boots on the ground, I think it's a real tough question how you fundamentally destroy and degrade ISIS, as President Obama has said that he wants to do. You might contain it to some degree with airstrikes. But degrade and destroy? I don't think so.

  • 12:30:24

    NNAMDIYou last joined us in 2010 to talk about the massive surveillance state that sprung up after the September 11th terror attacks. One of the big takeaways from that time was that our spy network had gotten so big that when it came to connecting the dots to prevent attacks, the government often failed. Four years later is there now more cohesion when it comes to cyber defense and surveillance?

  • 12:30:46

    HARRISI think probably not a whole lot more cohesion, no. I mean, you still have a, you know, but what you have is more of a consolidation of power, I think, within the National Security Agency in particular doing this. There is still a tendency to gather lots and lots of information. What we now call big data. You know, we have a term for this now. And I'm not sure that that has made us anymore adept at catching terrorists for sure. On the cyber defense side of it, I mean, the problem just keeps getting harder and harder. Even corporations that we think have great security, like JP Morgan -- one of the big banks -- are vulnerable to hackers and to theft.

  • 12:31:22

    HARRISIt seems like there's almost no organization that has not been targeted at this point. So I don't know that we are remarkably better at defense when it comes to hackers than we have been when it comes to terrorists in cyber space.

  • 12:31:34

    NNAMDI800-433-8850 is our number. Should cyber intelligence be a national priority? Give us a call, 800-433-8850. Do you mind if the government surveils your personal devices, as long as you don't have anything to hide? You can send us an email to kojo@wamu.org. Or shoot us a tweet, @kojoshow, using the hashtag Tech Tuesday.

  • 12:31:54

    NNAMDIIn your new book, Shane, "@War," you describe an alliance between the military, the intelligence community and American corporations that make up the military internet complex. Three words I'm sure that Dwight Eisenhower never would have dreamed of when he warned against a military industrial complex in 1961.

  • 12:32:14

    NNAMDIBut all you need to do is look at the government outcry over Apple's new locked up iPhone 6 to see how fraught this alliance can be. Can you give us some background on why the government realized it needed companies like Google and Yahoo to be key players? And how would you describe this military internet complex?

  • 12:32:32

    HARRISSure. I think that the key event that really was the inset in how this was born was in the summer of 2007, the CEOs of the leading defense contractors, like Lockheed Martin and Boeing -- the military industrial complex really -- were called to a meeting at the Pentagon and given the classified briefing about how hackers had penetrated these companies' computer networks and stolen classified military information. At that point the Pentagon realized that it was protecting its own systems, but these contractors were the weak link in the chain.

  • 12:33:00

    HARRISAnd that in order to protect this information they were going to have to work together and form a partnership, whereby the government would start giving classified information to the defense contractors about threats on their networks, and the contractors would share information with the government. That kind of information-sharing model then bloomed out to the NSA proving information, classified information about hackers to internet service providers, to telecommunications companies so they can program that into their systems and look for viruses to try and protect customers downstream.

  • 12:33:30

    HARRISAnd then took on other facets, too. Google and the NSA entered into a still secret arrangement, whereby the company shares information with the NSA about threats it's seeing on its network. The reason that the government needs these companies…

  • 12:33:43

    NNAMDIYou just mentioned the arrangement. It's no longer still secret.

  • 12:33:45

    HARRISYeah, well, the contours of it are secret. The existence of it is not exactly.

  • 12:33:49

    NNAMDIOkay.

  • 12:33:50

    HARRISThe reason why the government needs these companies is because companies own 85 percent of the physical infrastructure that is the internet in this country. They have this ability to peer into those networks that the government -- well, it would be much, much harder for them to get it on their own. It's just far more efficient for the companies to share the information with them. And it doesn't create, I think, as many legal hurdles for the government if the companies are voluntarily handing over that data.

  • 12:34:16

    NNAMDIOn June 5th, 2013, the Guardian published its first story about surveillance by the NSA based on documents provided by leaker or whistle-blower Edward Snowden. What kind of setback was that for U.S. foreign spying operations?

  • 12:34:29

    HARRISWell, certainly for our diplomatic relations it was a huge blow. NSA officials have told me that they feel like they lost capabilities. That is methods of gathering intelligence by -- because of the way that these operations were exposed. On the other side of that I guess one would argue that eventually your capabilities have to be fine-tuned and updated because people figure out how you're targeting them the way ISIS has. But the NSA feels like this was a huge setback.

  • 12:34:58

    HARRISAnd obviously the diplomatic relations -- and also not -- to say nothing of the corporate blowback of this. I mean, Facebook is one company, that when President Obama would come out and say, "Don't worry, we're only spying on foreigners. We're not spying on Americans." I think, you know, you have to recognize that most of our customers are foreign. So there are a lot of companies that are finding it much more difficult to do business because American technology, once kind of the gold standard, is now seen in many countries as an apparatus for eavesdropping and intelligence gathering.

  • 12:35:27

    NNAMDIAnd, of course, one can be sarcastic and say, of course, ISIS would never suspect that the U.S. is trying to monitor its communications. But, you know that they're probably keenly aware of that. But, nevertheless, how have the revelations in the Snowden documents informed how such adversaries, like ISIS, shield themselves from detection?

  • 12:35:48

    HARRISI think that's a very controversial point. And it's one that's hotly debated. The last story I wrote about this I talked to people who -- from the intelligence community and in the military who had very different views on this. Some saying undoubtedly the Snowden revelations informed ISIS, that they went to school on them. Others' saying, that's preposterous. They're not stupid. Enemies adapt. And they have shown that they are already technologically quite sophisticated, so why wouldn't we expect that they would take these steps?

  • 12:36:16

    HARRISPersonally, I come down on the side of that I don't think you can lay this at the feet of Snowden. I think ISIS is a fairly cunning enemy. And they're adopting, you know, commercially available technology that anyone would use if you were trying to evade detection. They didn't need Edward Snowden to tell them that.

  • 12:36:32

    NNAMDIOur guest is Shane Harris. He's senior correspondent with the Daily Beast. He's author of the book, "@War: The Rise of the Military Internet Complex." He's also author of, "The Watchers: The Rise of America's Surveillance State." We're taking your comments and questions at 800-433-8850. You can also go to our website, ask a question or make a comment there. And you can read an excerpt from "@War," at our website, kojoshow.org. You can shoot us a tweet, @kojoshow, or email to kojo@wamu.org. Can you take us inside the NSA's operations and tell us where its best hackers work and what they do?

  • 12:37:10

    HARRISThe best hackers at NSA work in a group called Tailored Access Operations, which often goes by just the acronym TAO. These are sort of the elite hackers. The best of the best. I kind of call them like the "Mission Impossible" force. When the NSA needs to get into a highly protected computer system or needs to find a way to even install a device on a machine before it's actually taken into, you know, whoever's ultimately using it -- they've been able to intercept computers and put bugs on them in the shipping process.

  • 12:37:37

    HARRISTAO comes in for that. Only a few hundred people we believe actually work there. That's how high the skill level has to be. And many of them work at a secure facility inside the NSA headquarters in Fort Meade, Md. And also at some of these other centers around the country, including in Hawaii, by the way, where Edward Snowden worked. They really are just the best of the best of the American hacker force.

  • 12:37:59

    NNAMDIWithin that there are elite hackers who belong to something called the Remote Operations Center, the ROC?

  • 12:38:07

    HARRISYeah, the ROC. Yeah, the Remote Operations Center is there are TAO members who work within the ROC. It's really interesting how these acronyms sort of, you know, they become sort of like, you know, badges of honor in a way. I mean, to say that you work at one of these groups really denotes you as somebody who is extremely sophisticated and has, you know, gone through a lot of levels.

  • 12:38:27

    HARRISAnd, you know, the people I talked to who worked in TAO and have worked in the ROC before, they really take a lot of pride. And something also I should say, have a real sense of public service. They view this as very much being a part of the military, the intelligence community, doing good for the country, out there battling America's enemies. This is more than just boasting on their part. They have a real core ethic that animates what they do.

  • 12:38:54

    NNAMDIHere is Judith, in Fairfax, Va. Judith, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.

  • 12:38:59

    JUDITHHi. I don't know if your guest knows that when Eisenhower originally wrote his speech, the draft of it, he talked about the military industrial and Congressional complex. And he took out Congressional because he thought it would be disrespectful. Today, I think the big question is what is Congress -- besides being deadlocked -- doing about these invasions of privacy and the actions that the military and the private companies are taking to gather our data and use it?

  • 12:39:32

    HARRISYeah, I did know that. And it's a very -- it's a fascinating deletion on Eisenhower's part, for sure. Congressional oversight -- I think offensive cyber warfare has -- it's been pretty anemic, actually. And where most of the action has been on the Hill in the past year and a half, has been on NSA surveillance. So specifically gathering American's phone records and other communications to look for terrorists related to their cyber operations, but not exactly the same thing. And as we saw last week, there was a bill to rein in some of these…

  • 12:40:01

    NNAMDII was about to say, Judith, the Obama Administration has repeatedly rejected or deferred every recommendation for reining in the NSA. Though there have been minor changes, the president left the agency's digital surveillance powers largely intact. But as Shane was saying, last week a Senate vote effectively killed legislation that was endorsed by the Obama Administration to end the NSA's mass collection of American's communications records. What's going on here, Shane?

  • 12:40:29

    HARRISWell, I think that Republicans in Congress have decided -- or in the Senate decided that these programs were too important for, ironically, trying to fight ISIS, which was sort of a strange explanation considering they're not really useful at all for fighting ISIS. I think that there's been historically a real reluctance on the part of lawmakers to curtail any of these authorities because god forbid there's another attack and someone can come forward and say, but for, you know, you taking away this capability, we would have been protected.

  • 12:40:59

    HARRISThere's a real fear of that and I don't think that the members in most of them have really dug into the technological nuances of this stuff and that they really deeply understand it. And I think frankly they're often afraid and they take the easier way out, which is to let it stand.

  • 12:41:13

    NNAMDIWell, it underscores Judith's observation about what President Eisenhower was thinking about about including congressional in it because it would appear that there are a number of members of congress who critics often way have never met a defense military or intelligence program that they didn't like. But apparently Democrats have decided to change somewhat. Why did the Democrats endorse this NSA reform from the Obama Administration when they'd been against it previously?

  • 12:41:43

    HARRISI think at this point because the Republicans were lining up against -- it was a safe vote in the opposition. And, I know it looks like you are erring on the side of privacy and civil liberties and it's a strong vote for that. And it would not have been an insignificant change, I mean, to stop the so-called bulk collection of records. But it would've been pretty minor in the grand scheme of things.

  • 12:42:02

    NNAMDIJudith, would you have approve it to stop the bulk collection of records?

  • 12:42:07

    JUDITHI think there needs to be a real inquiry into what needs to be stopped and what needs to be allowed and what kind of controls there should be over it so at least someone knows beyond the people who are collecting it what is being done. Perhaps I'm talking about oversight.

  • 12:42:24

    NNAMDIThank you very much for your call. Shane.

  • 12:42:26

    HARRISYeah, I think that's right. And in fact, you know, there was a review board that the president set up after the Snowden revelations to make recommendations to him. And they did get into some very nuanced recommendations about ways that you could modify surveillance, some big ways, some small ways, some fundamental ways. The president rejected almost all of those recommendations.

  • 12:42:47

    HARRISSo in a sense there kind of -- there has been to some degree a debate and an inspection, no necessarily by congress on this, but the president seems to be pretty satisfied with the way things are.

  • 12:42:57

    NNAMDIThank you very much for your call, Judith. Dennis, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.

  • 12:43:03

    DENNISI don't have a problem with them looking at the records. It just -- if it's really for the true reason of not being invasive, if they're just doing it just to check just to make...

  • 12:43:15

    NNAMDIWell, you keep saying if. How would you know if that's the real reason if there is not, as somebody like Judith would ask for, more oversight?

  • 12:43:25

    DENNISMore oversight. If it's true oversight, I have no problem with it. But if it's to dig in more and take advantage of the American public more, but if it's true oversight where they're actually going to be a third party so to speak to take the real facts and not twist them, that's fine. It's just that a lot of people feel that the government has too much control. And I can understand that. And -- but the thing is I think they're doing it for the right reason and they're turning in information that maybe there should be a third party set up. And I don't think that's the Congress.

  • 12:44:08

    NNAMDIShane Harris, how do we know they're doing it for the right reason?

  • 12:44:11

    HARRISWell, we don't necessarily -- I mean, we didn't know that they were collecting American's phone records until Edward Snowden revealed it. Now there have been some press reports on it but nothing quite as illuminating as what he said. And some members of congress felt that they didn't fully understand the program as it was described to them.

  • 12:44:25

    HARRISI mean, it's important to remember that in this bill that was shot down in the Senate last week, there was a provision to increase oversight by the judiciary. The courts right now do oversee elements of mass data collection but the bill would've set up a process whereby someone, another lawyer would've been present at these proceedings, where the government is the only one represented by the way, to argue the other side, to argue the privacy or civil liberties' interest. That would've been another significant layer of oversight that we're not going to have, at least for the time being.

  • 12:44:55

    NNAMDIWe're talking with Shane Harris. He's senior correspondent at the Daily Beast and his latest book is called "At War: The Rise of the Military Internet Complex." We're going to take a short break. When we come back we'll continue the conversation. If you've called, stay on the line. If you'd like to, the number's 800-433-8850. Do you mind if the government surveils your personal devices as long as you don't have anything to hide? Are you concerned about spying and your civil liberties, 800-433-8850? You can go to our website kojoshow.org, read an excerpt from "At War" and ask a question or make a comment. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.

  • 12:47:22

    NNAMDIWelcome back. Our guest is Shane Harris, senior correspondent at the Daily Beast. We're talking about his latest book. It's called "At War: The Rise of the Military Internet Complex." He's however also the author of "The Watches: The Rise of American's Surveillance State." You can call us at 800-433-8850. Shane, the NSA has been building a cache of cyber weapons by scouring hardware, software and network equipment, looking for vulnerabilities. It's called Zero -- or vulnerabilities that are called Zero-Day exploits. What are these and how are they used?

  • 12:47:55

    HARRISThese are basically flaws in a computer system that would allow the hacker to gain access and potentially control the machine. Flaws importantly that have never been discovered by anyone but the hacker, so the manufacturer of the Microsoft operating system let's say, hasn't discovered it and patched it. And it's called a Zero-Day because there would be zero days to defend against it if someone exploited it.

  • 12:48:18

    HARRISNSA wants this information because it lets it have privileged access to all kinds of commercial technology used around the world. There is a black market online for this information in which the NSA is actually the single biggest purchaser. So it's buying information about Zero-Days from hackers who discover them and effectively stockpiling these so that it has an arsenal of exploits that it can use to penetrate, to gather information, to potentially cause physical disruptions on commercial technology used all over the world.

  • 12:48:50

    HARRISAnd we've seen this actually used against Iran with the famous Stuxnet virus which was designed to disrupt centrifuges in an Iranian nuclear plant. There were at least, that we know of, four Zero-Day exploits on that one worm, which is an extraordinary number by the way.

  • 12:49:06

    NNAMDISaid earlier that American businesses or I should've said earlier that American businesses lose up to $300 billion a year because of Chinese hacking, but allow me to flip that on its head. How much do foreign companies lose each year because of cyber spying by the U.S.? Is there a way to quantify that?

  • 12:49:22

    HARRISYeah, I don't know if there is or not actually. And the U.S., not surprisingly, is not putting out a number of how much it's taking either. It's certainly the case that the Chinese are stealing information from companies in this country and giving it to Chinese corporations for competitive advantage, which is something U.S. officials say we do not do. But we do spy on foreign companies and then use that information to inform our policy judgments, our diplomatic strategy, our military strategy.

  • 12:49:48

    HARRISI would imagine that it's probably not as high as the estimates that have been given about the loss of intellectual property because of Chinese spying. Our companies have a lot more to lose in that regard. But it is the case that we do spy on corporations around the world. And we're not, you know, unique in that regard either.

  • 12:50:09

    NNAMDIYou say that one of China's big strengths over the U.S. in cyber spying is not necessarily sophistication but rather manpower. Can you give us an idea of the sheer numbers of people working on cyber intelligence in China compared to here?

  • 12:50:22

    HARRISRight. Several thousands, and it actually can be very hard to estimate. There was one famous reporter a couple of years ago that estimated one building may have had as many as 2 or 3,000 people working in it constantly in shifts trying to find any way in, whether it be a Zero-Day or some other exploit into companies' networks to steal information.

  • 12:50:41

    HARRISBy comparison, we want -- we, being the U.S. military I should say, within the next two years, wants to field a cadre of 6,000 total for the entire military. So we are imagining it could be tens of thousands actually in China that they've thrown at this. They're just relentless about it. It's all about theft and they really don't care if they're discovered. We are really outmanned in that way. We may have more technological sophistication but on sheer numbers, China has us beat.

  • 12:51:09

    NNAMDIOnto the telephones. Here is Josh in Washington, D.C. Josh, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.

  • 12:51:16

    JOSHYeah, hi, Kojo. Thanks for having me on. I'm a big fan of the show.

  • 12:51:19

    NNAMDIThank you.

  • 12:51:20

    JOSHI just wanted to (unintelligible) you know, ever since the Snowden leaks were published, I was really disturbed by the scope and extent of the government's surveillance. And the more we've learned about it the more disturbed I am. I'm just wondering what you and your guest today think -- how you think the society we live in now stacks up to the surveillance state described in Orwell's "1984."

  • 12:51:45

    JOSHI mention that because the society we're in now is so digitized that really everything about our lives is available electronically. If the government's looking at all that, it really is like Big Brother's watching. So I'm just curious what you all would say of that.

  • 12:52:02

    NNAMDIShane.

  • 12:52:03

    HARRISYeah, I don't think it's quite like the society Orwell imagined so far as people aren't -- at least on a large scale, adjusting their behavior because they think that they're being watched. Now there are certain journalists and attorneys and people who are in touch with people overseas who have been very careful and have adjusted how they communicate. But writ large I don't think society has adjusted.

  • 12:52:23

    HARRISWe seem to be, I mean, more in error of an almost digital exhibitionism. What's always struck me in these investigations and how the NSA gathers information on us is how we willingly hand it over to social media and gain some satisfaction from that. We like to be in control of the data though, that's the thing. We like to make the choice about what we're revealing and now have the government, which of course has the power to come arrest you and make your life very difficult to be taking it from you without your knowledge.

  • 12:52:51

    NNAMDIBut there is some pushback from tech companies. Apple's new iPhone 6 is now encrypted by default, which means intelligence agencies and law enforcement won't be able to obtain information on it without the pass code. How badly does this new feature on smart phones thwart our intelligence agencies?

  • 12:53:10

    HARRISOn that particular issue, I don't think very much because the FBI has ways of getting information from Apple by going directly to the company. It's important to remember that this encryption is just a way of giving the individual user with that handheld device some level of security over the phone. And, you know, personally I feel good about having it because what if I lose my phone? I mean, it's -- I'm not glad that I have it there because I'm trying to evade law enforcement.

  • 12:53:35

    HARRISAnd the FBI Director Jim Comey, who I think is a very smart man, has, I think, decided to pick on this one issue largely as a way of a proxy for a much bigger debate about the FBI having more access and authority over internet communications.

  • 12:53:49

    NNAMDIHe's asking congress to update a 1994 law to make sure officials can access information from people's cell phones. The update would require companies to put in a backdoor to our devices so that law enforcements could tap them. It's his so-called crypto war that he's launched. Will this be an uphill battle for the FBI?

  • 12:54:09

    HARRISI think it will actually because I think that the government doesn't have a lot of credibility right now when it comes to these issues, and because the technology companies are going to resist this, as they have for a long time quite fiercely. And they've resisted it successfully. I mean, it's just a sort of weird bit of the law and regulation where the government can enforce surveillance regulations more easily on telephone companies that are defined as common carriers than it can internet companies. And it has long wanted to do that but the companies have so far successfully resisted. And in a post-Snowden era I'd be betting on the companies, not the FBI.

  • 12:54:43

    NNAMDIBecause they have been able to have that 1994 law require telephone companies to make it possible for federal officials to wiretap their users' phone calls. They're having a much more difficult time with this one but opponents to what the government is doing have also said that putting in a backdoor to our devices will only help spying efforts by foreign agencies. What do you say to that?

  • 12:55:04

    HARRISI think that's absolutely true. I mean, anytime you put a backdoor or a front door, any kind of entry point that is a privilege point in the system, you are creating, by definition, a vulnerability. It's not to say that every country will be able to exploit it or they wouldn’t take a sophisticated hacker, but you are essentially creating a hole, if you like, in that system. And it doesn't stand to reason that the only people who could access that point of entry are the United States law enforcement agencies. I mean, a sophisticated hacker could get into it too.

  • 12:55:32

    NNAMDIWell, the good news maybe amid all this cyber sleuthing is that former NSA Director Keith Alexander says he's developed the right technology to protect our computers against hackers. You reported this summer that he might be charging up to, what, a million dollars per month to do that? What do we know about what he's developing?

  • 12:55:51

    HARRISYeah, he now says it may be as low as 600,000 a month, so he's amended the figure. Well, what Keith Alexander was -- he, as a director of the NSA, was in charge of the government's cyber security mission. And now that he's left government, he has filed for patents on what he believes is a -- his words, he told me, unique cyber security defense solution, a way of finding hackers in a network in real time.

  • 12:56:15

    HARRISI asked him the question, well, if this is such a great idea, why didn't you come up with it when you were in government. And he said that it was something that occurred to him and some colleagues after he left government -- a few weeks after he left government.

  • 12:56:25

    NNAMDIConveniently.

  • 12:56:25

    HARRISConveniently. So he's now filed for a patent on this and, you know, look, I mean, not to pick on Keith Alexander exclusively. Lots and lots of former intelligent officials go into private sector to take that expertise to help protect companies. And to an extent we do need that. The government cannot protect all companies and all networks. It's going to take a spreading out of this expertise. And some of that is going to mean private companies. And yes, people are going to make money on that.

  • 12:56:50

    NNAMDIWell, how much expertise does he really have? We might be a little flabbergasted at his possible consulting fees but this is a guy who really was apparently in the trenches of the NSA. How significant was Keith Alexander to the growth of U.S. cyber spying?

  • 12:57:03

    HARRISHugely significant. And cyber warfare as well. I mean, he really was at the center of that and under his watch from 2005 to just a few -- maybe 2014 I guess it was, the NSA became the central player in cyber warfare. He entered it into a whole new era and expanded the agency's authorities through technology, it's power in the government. He really is at the center of this. And I have to say that if -- I've talked to some people in the banking world about his exorbitant fees. They've said, if you really have the solution that keeps the hackers out of our network, we'll pay you a million dollars a month.

  • 12:57:39

    NNAMDIGood luck to you, Keith Alexander. Shane Harris is senior correspondent with the Daily Beast. He's author of "At War: The Rise of the Military Internet Complex. He's also author of "The Watches: The Rise of America's Surveillance State. If you go to our website kojoshow.org you can read an excerpt from "At War." Shane Harris, thank you so much for joining us.

  • 12:57:58

    HARRISYou bet, Kojo. Thank you for having me.

  • 12:58:00

    NNAMDIAnd thank you all for listening. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.

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