FBI’s Abbate says cyber threats ‘more complex’ than ever

The associate deputy director of the FBI had an ominous warning Wednesday at the 2018 National Cyber Summit.

“When will a cyber 9/11 occur?” he asked the audience. “… it’s already begun.”

Paul Abbate

Associate Deputy Director Paul Abbate was the keynote speaker in the morning session to open the 10th annual summit at the Von Braun Center in downtown Huntsville.

It is the pre-eminent event for cyber training, education and workforce development aimed at protecting the nation from the ever-evolving cyber threat. The summit attracts government and commercial participants.

“The (cyber) threats we face today are more complex and change more rapidly than we’ve ever seen,” Abbate said. “We have a whole variety of bad guys” who use the Internet to carry out their crimes.

Abbate said the main threat is from nation-states that employ individuals to do their bidding.

“It’s a blended or hybrid threat where nation-states use mercenaries to hack and carry out their (the nation-states’) crimes,” he said. “And we’re committed to bringing cyber criminals to justice no matter where they hide.”

To add a little discomfort to the crowd of private industry and government people, he said some patches can lead to systems being hacked.

“Eighty percent of the hacking is through known and weak patches,” Abbate said. “I’m also talking about legacy systems, if you’re afraid to patch them for fear of the system going down.

“Don’t forget the third-party vendors who touch your system everyday.”

He urged the audience to train the employees from “interns and supply clerks up to the executive suite.”

Abbate said the FBI is constantly sending its personnel through cyber training, including “boot camp-type” classes and he said the agency wants “to know your perceived risks that keep you up at night.”

“The stakes are higher than ever and require all of us to up our game.”

The summit concludes Thursday at the VBC. For information, visit www.nationalcybersummit.com.