Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen.Nielsen said the U.S. response to a cyberattack will be swift. File Photo by Kevin Dietsch/UPI | License Photo
Sept. 5 (UPI) -- The threat of cyberattacks against U.S. infrastructure is greater than ever before and retaliation must be swift after an attack happens, Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen said Wednesday.
"The pace of innovation, our hyper-connectivity and our digital dependence have opened cracks in our defenses, creating new opportunities and new vectors through which these nefarious actors can strike us," Nielson said in a speech at George Washington University in Washington, D.C.
If an attack happens, President Donald Trump will have less red tape go through. He recently repealed Presidential Policy Directive 20, which required several agencies to weigh in before the country can retaliate.
"We will no longer tolerate the threat of our data," Nielson said. "We will no longer stand idly by while our networks are penetrated, exploited or held hostage. Instead, we will respond and we will respond decisively.
She echoed the words of Dan Coats, director of National Intelligence, who has raised concerns about outside hackers trying to influence the midterm elections.
"He is right. Our digital lives are in danger like never before," Nielson said. "But it's more than that. We are witnessing historic changes across the entire threat landscape ... The balance of power that has characterized the international system for decades has been corroding. America's unipolar moment is at risk. Power vacuums are springing up across the globe and are quickly filled by hostile nation-states, terrorists and transnational criminals. They all share a common goal: They want to disrupt our way of life -- and many are inciting chaos, instability and violence."
Meanwhile on Capitol Hill Wednesday, executives from Facebook and Twitter testified again about outside interference in U.S. elections.
The goal is to prevent another Russian disinformation campaign like the one targeting the 2016 elections.
"Foreign influence efforts online are increasingly being used around the globe," Coats said in a news conference Tuesday. "The weatherization of cyber tools and the relative lack of global guardrails in a cyber domain significantly increases the risk that a discrete act will have enormous strategic implications."