Chris Cleary, the principal cyber advisor at the Department of the Navy, called cybersecurity an “infinite game” today and stressed that the United States will lose that game if it does not have the adequate funding or resources to continue the fight against adversaries.

Although there are a number of cybersecurity measures agencies can take to protect their networks, Cleary noted that cybersecurity will continue to evolve and the United States needs to provide funding to support the prolonged fight against advanced persistent threats.

“Cybersecurity is an infinite game. There’s no perfect tool that’s going to come out,” Cleary said during an FCW event on August 4. “One of the things as a realist in the environment, I would acknowledge zero trust is a great construct… [but] zero trust is not the last construct we’re going to see. It’s just the thing we’re focused on now.”

“The only way that you that you fall out of the infinite game is you either lose the will or the resources to continue,” he added.

The will and resources to continue the cyber fight will be critical moving forward, Cleary said, because our adversaries are constantly discovering new cyber warfare tactics. “There’s a very low cost of entry for them and potentially a very, very expensive problem for us to respond to,” he said.

“If you find yourselves in the crosshairs of a sophisticated adversary, you could have every tool on the market, you could have every product… but do you have the time and resources to train your people appropriate to use those products for more than a security standpoint.. when you have to transition into more of a dynamic defensive standpoint, which is really where the art of our adversaries are coming at us.”

Cleary noted that individuals inside of the cyber field realize funding cybersecurity efforts is vital to protecting the United States today, but he wants industry stakeholders and others in the Federal government to also recognize its importance – especially in the wake of recent cyberattacks.

Playing the infinite cyber game with finite resources is something that Cleary says “scares me to death.”

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“Somebody somewhere is making cyber, a very, very expensive problem for the Department of Homeland Security, for the Department of Defense. You know, I’m not a conspiracy theorist, but I’m also not a dummy,” Cleary said. “Warfare is simply about getting your adversary to succumb to your wants, needs, and desires. We always saw that through the engagement of kinetic military actions that’s going to get my adversary to eventually succumb to my will. Well, now we’re finding there’s a lot of other ways our adversaries can get us to succumb to their will. This is very much one of them.”

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Grace Dille
Grace Dille
Grace Dille is a MeriTalk Senior Technology Reporter covering the intersection of government and technology.