A Game-Changing Spy & the Fourth of July

posted on July 4, 2012 in Leadership, Politics and Society

To the man who brought down the most damaging spy in U.S. history, the Fourth of July is about more than cold beer, fireworks and hotdogs - it's also about remembering the reason for the season: our freedom.

In a quick talk at the International Spy Museum in Washington, D.C., Eric O'Neill, the former FBI operative who brought down two-timing Russian spy Robert Hanssen. To him the Fourth is really about appreciating American independence. "I've traveled extensively across the world and have come to know that the freedoms we enjoy in the United States are incredible. I think we Americans often forget the sacrifices poured into winning that freedom, and the strength of will it requires to preserve it."

O'Neill went on to explain that, while he does tweet, cyber freedom specifically is an area that keeps him up at night. When asked what an ordinary citizen could do to strengthen our nation's cyber security, he said:

Effective national cyber security requires a collaborative effort between the government, industry and individuals.  We all have a role to play in protecting confidential information across a digital infrastructure that is not particularly secure.  The best way an average citizen can help to protect our nation's cyber security is to protect information.  Many cyber breaches occur, not through sophisticated computer hacking, but through the careless actions of the weakest point in a security system, a human.  Protect passwords, utilize spyware programs, and engage privacy restrictions on social media, place information in the public cautiously.  It's very much like the war slogan: Loose lips sink ships.  In the digital age, secrets are literally all around us.  If we don't protect them, someone will exploit them.

To hear more on why O’Neill thinks Hanssen did it, how involved he was in the production of the movie Breach, and what he considers to be the most threatening national security issue we face today, check out this video.

Interview with Monica Gray