Experts: Understand the 'why' of cyber attacks

- How vulnerable is the United States to cyber security threats?

The Council on Foreign Relations hosted a panel that discussed the current threats and vulnerabilities to the United States. The panelists used the recent WannaCry ransomware attack, which spread to more than 150 countries and nearly crippled Britain's national health system, as an example of vulnerability. They said that that to be able to prevent such attacks, you need to understand what causes them.

"It's also just understanding that you can't always be chasing the current event," Kiersten Todt, the president Liberty Group Ventures, said. "You actually have to have a much more approach that really looks at the causes and not only addressing the symptoms."

They talked extensively about North Korea and Iran's growing presence as threats. The discussion also turned to Russia.

"We knew that Russians were spying on political organizations. We knew they were conducting information operations through traditional measures," said Adam Segal of the Council on Foreign Relations. "We didn't expect them to combine the two against the United States."

Bloomberg News reported that 39 out of 50 states were targeted and hacked during the U.S. presidential election. Voter registration data was compromised as well. That U.S. cyber security threat is still being investigated.

The experts said that as technology advances, the government and private companies need to stay ahead of the curve to avoid security breaches.

"A Tesla is running as much software as Microsoft is, basically, and if a flaw in Tesla and somebody hacks it and causes a death, you can imagine that would cause some types of liability and the manufacturers of IoT [internet of things] devices are going to turn around and say 'Why are we liable and Microsoft isn't?'" Segal said.

The panelists stressed that to ensure safety, all departments, private or public, need to work hand in hand to keep America safe.

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