Birmingham, UK

May 14, 2024

Remarks As Prepared for Delivery

Thank you, Anne and Felicity.

I am grateful to be here, even though I was rudely greeted at the airport by the Aston Villa and Birm City fans. They must’ve noticed my lapel pin, yes, I am a West Ham supporter.

But today, I want to share my thoughts, briefly, on just how integral cyber issues are to economic prosperity, geopolitical security, and scientific innovation.

Earlier this month, the U.S. State Department released a new international strategy promoting an innovative, secure, and rights-respecting vision for international cyberspace.

Advancing digital solidarity is key to achieving this vision, recognizing that threats are growing more worrisome every day.

One example of the growing threat in cyberspace comes from Ukraine. Since Russia’s invasion in 2022, Ukraine’s cyber defenders have successfully defended their country’s critical infrastructure from Russian cyberattacks. Ukrainian cybersecurity experts have demonstrated, for all of us, how to take on a world-class cyber power and win.

However, the Russian threat has changed. Since 2022, Russia has recruited new cyber operators, deepened their understanding of Ukraine’s new cloud infrastructure, and focused their efforts on intercepting Ukrainian communications and government secrets that have been exploited to produce battlefield success.

The Russian cyber threat in 2024 marks a new standard of aggression, persistence, and operational agility.

For Ukraine, improving the security of networks and communications will be fundamental to their battlefield success. 

Last week I met with Anton Demokhin, Deputy Foreign Minister of Ukraine, and Chief Digital Transformation Officer Yegor Dubynskyi to let them know that the White House is putting a priority on Ukraine achieving their goals.

But the cyber threat landscape is evolving beyond the battlefield.

I recently had a chance to speak with leaders of America’s cybersecurity companies when I was at the RSA Conference in San Francisco. And they told us about what they’re seeing on a day-to-day basis.  People’s Republic of China hackers are working on circumventing our defenses and are targeting our interests at an unprecedented scale.

The PRC’s People’s Liberation Army has invested tremendous resources in building up their cyber program, and they are doing this for one reason: to hold critical infrastructure at risk in a time of global competition.  

In a crisis or conflict scenario, China would use their pre-positioned cyber capabilities to wreak havoc in civilian infrastructure to deter U.S. military action.

We are determined not to let that happen. The U.S. government has already identified and disrupted the PLA’s efforts to pre-position on our critical infrastructure networks. 

And we’re going to keep pushing back.

But make no mistake: This is a global challenge. China’s ambitions to use its cyber power coercively extends far beyond the United States. Pushing back this challenge will require our collective strength, focus, and determination – characteristics that I’m told Brummies hold in spades.

­­Before I conclude, I’d like to leave you with one more thought. Cyber resilience is a strategic advantage.

Cybersecurity is a fundamental component of our most pressing national priorities. And we must ensure that the full advantages of proactive cyber defenses are not viewed in a vacuum as an isolated technical issue.  

Instead, as we listen today and as we head home to carry forth the knowledge from these action-provoking conversations, I ask that all of us recognize that the threats from cyber actually imperil our greatest common ambitions.

This morning, we’ll have a great panel, and I’m as eager as you are to hear their thoughts.

But I just want to leave you with: While the proactive measures we can take now will pay untold dividends, we must plan – and we must respond – digital solidarity, we must do it accordingly.

Thank you.

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