General Michael Hayden had some interesting things to say about his former employers, the National Security Agency (NSA).
The former director of the NSA made no qualms while speaking about cyberespionage operations at a recent cybersecurity conference in Miami Beach. Hayden delivered the keynote address at the S4X16 conference, with the night’s topic of focus on hackers targeting critical infrastructure such as power plants and utilities like water and gas.
The former NSA director was quoted by CNN to state:
We steal other people’s stuff in the cyber domain.
The cyber domain is a reference to cyberespionage operations such as Snowden’s revelation that the United States spied on Chinese public officials, businesses and even the Chinese University, in Hong Kong.
Speaking to the South China Post at the time, Snowden revealed that the NSA engaged and led more than 61,000 hacking operations around the world.
In an interview to the publication after fleeing to Hong Kong, Snowden said:
We hack network backbones – like huge internet routers, basically – that give us access to the communications of hundreds of thousands of computers without having to hack every single one.
Hayden fundamentally defended the United States hacking into the computers of foreign countries and their officials while adding: “As a former director of NSA, I like to think we’re number one [in cyberespionage.]”
Hayden also referred to four American partners as a part of the “Five Eyes” group – a collective of nations that includes Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and the United States.
“We steal stuff to keep you free and keep you safe,” Hayden said, addressing those attending the conference. He continued: “We do not steal stuff to make you rich. I can think of only four other countries who can say that. They all speak English,” he added, speaking about the “Five Eyes.”
Hayden argued that the United States differs from other countries in the reasons it conducts cyber espionage operations. He made the claim that other countries include economic success as a part of national security, which isn’t the case with the United States, according to Hayden.
“Do we steal economic information? Of course we do: precursor chemicals, dual-use equipment… money laundering,” the former director said.”But we do not do it for commercial advantage.”
Boisterous as the former NSA director is about America’s cyber surveillance operations, the rest of the world aren’t particularly thrilled with the former’s global cyber-spying efforts. Following Snowden’s revelations, an age-old data-sharing agreement between the United States and Europe was firmly shut by the European Union’s highest court, the European Court of Justice.
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