Event recap: “Cyber Strategy in the Biden Era: A Conversation with Anne Neuberger”

Deputy National Security Advisor discusses Microsoft Exchange hack attribution, Biden’s executive order on cyber, and ransomware response in recent Silverado event

06/29/2021 | Ian Ward

On Tuesday, Silverado Policy Accelerator hosted Deputy National Security Advisor for Cyber and Emerging Tech Anne Neuberger for a wide-ranging discussion about the Biden administration’s cyber strategy, the government’s response to recent ransomware attacks, and the future of the cyber threat landscape.

In an hour-long conversation with Silverado’s Co-founder and Executive Chairman Dmitri Alperovitch, Neuberger provided updates on the administration’s implementation of its recent executive order on cybersecurity and shared insights on the National Security Council’s strategic goals for the near future.

“The goal we always have when coming into a role is leaving the place better than we found it,” said Neuberger, who spent over a decade working on cyber issues at the National Security Agency before joining the Biden administration. “An initial goal is driving down [national cybersecurity] risk, making big leaps in modernizing our defenses, really building a coalition of countries who say, ‘We want to be responsible actors in cyberspace,’ and ensuring that we’ve achieved those objectives in a measurable and significant way.”

Notably, Neuberger indicated that the administration intends to issue formal attribution for the recent Microsoft Exchange Server hack, which many cybersecurity experts have attributed to actors connected with the Chinese government in Beijing.

“We will attribute that activity, and along with that, of course, determine what [we] need to do as a follow up to that,” Neuberger said. “You’ll be seeing further on that in the coming weeks.”

Neuberger also discussed the relationship between the National Security Council and the new office of the National Cyber Director, now occupied by Chris Inglis, a former member of Silverado’s Strategic Council. Neuberger said that Inglis and his team will focus on “bringing coherence and focus to federal government networks,” as well as expanding public-private partnerships and addressing the shortage of cyber talent that currently hampers the federal government’s long-term response to cyber threats.

In response to a question about the recent slew of ransomware attacks targeting U.S. private-sector companies, Neuberger noted that more extensive private-public partnerships will be key to reducing the frequency and severity of ransomware attacks. On the question of whether companies should be allowed to pay ransom payments to cybercriminals without publicly acknowledging the payments, Neuberger said, “That is a key issue we’re looking at right now.”

Finally, Neuberger spoke about vulnerabilities in the global semiconductor supply chain, an issue that has broad implications both for national security and for the maintenance of the U.S.’s critical infrastructure.

Neuberger said that while the U.S. can and should invest in maintaining U.S. leadership in the research and design of leading-edge semiconductors, the government’s strategy will focus in large part on building supply chains with allied nations rather than trying to significantly expand  the U.S.’s manufacturing capacity.

“We don’t aim to re-shore entire supply chains,” she said. “We want to work with allies and partners on complementary investments so that we can have confidence in our supply chains and work together rather than be competing to get to where we need to be.”

A full recording of the event can be found here, on Silverado’s YouTube page.

Registration is now open for Silverado’s next event on July 13: “Competing with China: Opportunities for U.S.-Australia Cooperation,” a moderated discussion between Hon. Malcolm Turnbull, Rep. Ami Bera, Rep. John Katko, and Silverado’s co-founders, Dmitri Alperovitch and Maureen Hinman.