Live on Feb. 3: David Sanger’s talk on Strategies for Combating Cyber-terrorism

Jan 30, 2016AI World Society Summit

(Jan. 30, 2016) – The Boston Global Forum (BGF) is pleased to introduce the first in series of online dialogues to build the BGF-G7 Summit Initiative. This session will be with David E. Sanger, the chief Washington correspondent of The New York Times, at 3 p.m. (Eastern Time) on Feb. 3, in the Shorenstein Center in Harvard’s Kennedy School.


Watch the live-streamed video here

See David Sanger’s presentation here:

Short of war


This is just our summary of his talk:

Mr. Sanger discussed the various forms of cyber-aggression, including cyber-attacks that physically damage foes’ equipment, such as the U.S. “Stuxnet’’ attack on Iranian nuclear development; cyber-theft of intellectual property; cyber-invasions of personal privacy; cyber-manipulation of data; cyber-disinformation and propaganda, and cyber-attacks meant as political coercion, such as North Korea’s attack on Sony. He noted how much more difficult cyber-attacks can be to defend against compared to “kinetic attacks,’’ such as with cruise missiles.

He detailed the difficulties of retaliating against cyber-attacks because of the possibility that in doing so, a country or other organization might reveal secrets of its own digital operations. In any case, he noted, the defensive response can include economic sanctions as well as direct cyber-attacks to confuse and mislead foreign actors or even to disable some of an attacker’s infrastructure. Governments are still learning how to calibrate and graduate their responses to cyber-aggression.

Gov Dukakis Feb 03

Governor Michael Dukakis, Chairman of Boston Global Forum, moderates the talk.

He emphasized that while nations must be careful in responding to cyber-attacks, they make themselves too vulnerable if their passivity leads foes to think they can be attacked at will. Foes must be made to know that attacked nations will respond.

In answer to a question in the Q&A, David Sanger ranked Russia as the most expert cyber-attacker and China as the most relentless. And he said, in answer to another question, that the United Nations can’t do much about cyber-attacks at this point, in part because the private sector runs so much of the cyber-world.

Answering another question, he suggested that the G7 nations need to clarify and expand on the acceptable “norms’’ of cyber-behavior by national governments, though, again, any such joint actions would have limited force because there’s so much bad cyber-behavior by nongovernmental groups and individuals.

David Sanger and Mr. NGuyen Anh Tuan2

Photo: Mr. Nguyen Anh Tuan, CEO of Boston Global Forum, moderated the Q&A.

Complicating matters, he noted, are privacy-protection disagreements among some G7 nations, particularly between the U.S. and some of its European allies, about the surveillance of digital activities, for example by cooperating with Google, Facebook and Twitter. These disagreements can sometimes make joint action very hard to achieve. And technology companies can fear exposing lots of their users’ information to governments.

He noted that privacy rules, mostly in Western nations, and other legalities can often make it difficult for governments to identify and stop cyber-attacks. “The Internet was not designed with security in mind,’’ he noted.

Indeed, he said, as far as dealing with cyber threats, we’re about “where aviation was at the time of the Wright Brothers.’’ For now, governments, other institutions and individuals must recognize their vulnerabilities and engage in the cyber-equivalent of “safe sex’’ — such a frequently changing passwords and layering on other layers of protection – e.g., fingerprints and retinal identification. But there is no perfect protection.


About David Sanger

Besides his Times duties, Mr. Sanger is a Senior Fellow for National Security and the Press at the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at Harvard’s Kennedy School and Adjunct Lecturer in Public Policy at the Kennedy School.

David E Sanger

David Sanger in a Boston Global Forum conference on October 16, 2016 at Harvard University Faculty Club.

In a 32-year career at the paper, he has been a member of two teams that won the Pulitzer Prize, and has received some of journalism’s other top awards, too. He has covered national security, including nuclear proliferation; foreign policy; the White House, and international economics.

Mr. Sanger has also written two best-sellers on foreign policy: The Inheritance: The World Obama Confronts and the Challenges to American Power (2009) and Confront and Conceal: Obama’s Secret Wars and Surprising Use of American Power (2012).

About The BGF-G7 Summit Initiative

The G7 summit will be held in Japan this year. The BGF-G7 Summit Initiative is a new program of The Boston Global Forum, which is cooperating with the Japanese government, as the summit’s host, to convene leading scholars as well as political, business, technology and other leaders to generate solutions to overcome the most pressing global peace, security and development challenges. The G7 represents the seven leading industrial democracies.

Proposals from the initiative will be sent to the national leaders at this year’s G7 Summit, to be held May 26-27

About Boston Global Forum

The Boston Global Forum ( was co-founded three years ago by former Democratic presidential candidate and former Massachusetts Gov. Michael Dukakis, who is now a Distinguished Professor at Northeastern University; Prof. John Quelch, the Charles Edward Wilson Professor of Business Administration at the Harvard Business School; Prof. Thomas Patterson, the Bradlee Professor of Government and the Press at the Harvard Kennedy School, and Nguyen Anh Tuan, the CEO and Editor-in-Chief of the Boston Global Forum, and the founder and chairman of VietNamNet Media Company and VietNet, the first Internet Service Provider in that nation.