Lt. Gen. Vincent Stewart talks to 3L student James Eustace during his recent lecture at California Western.
“It is the most complex environment I’ve had to think myself through in nearly 40 years.”
That short statement by Marine Corps Lt. Gen. Vincent R. Stewart, Deputy Commander U.S. Cyber Command aptly encapsulates the cybersecurity world he faces on a daily basis.
Lt. Gen. Stewart was at California Western recently to give a talk on cybercrime, cybersecurity, and the challenges of legal regulation to students, staff, and faculty.
In a packed lecture hall, his audience listened intently as the general, who joined the Marines Corps in 1979, painted a picture of a troubled world where technology has taken us from the mimeograph to the smartphone in just a few decades.
“Today's smartphones have more computing power than NASA used to go to the moon,” said Lt. Gen. Stewart as a show of hands in the room proved his point that virtually everyone is carrying one of these hand-held devices now.
Drawing comparisons from the late ‘70s to today, Lt. Gen. Stewart outlined the potential threats from multiple sovereign states around the world and individuals, all posing significant risks to the U.S.
“Today, every bit of one’s life is on social media,” said Lt. Gen. Stewart. “Everything is connected, and the propensity for mischief-making by individuals or sovereign states has never been higher.”
Citing election tampering and how that can influence and shape a person’s decision to vote Lt. Gen. Stewart posed the question of how this could be regulated and what were the legal implications.
Unlike a nuclear threat which is a tangible threat that is easily understood, cyber attacks are far more insidious as everyone can compete in this space said Lt. Gen. Stewart. “There are some formidable adversaries out there, but we have the best minds and talent to combat them,” stated Lt. Gen. Stewart.
Lt. Gen. Stewart said that combatting cybercrime was not effective in a vacuum. “It is a public/private partnership,” he said. “We are dealing with tens of millions of events daily, and these partnerships are critical, extending through every law enforcement agency and the public both nationally and internationally.”
Concluding his talk, Lt. Gen. Stewart invited his audience to comment on the legal framework surrounding some of the scenarios he had outlined asking them to dig deep in history and precedence, finally ending on a somewhat prophetic note.
“It’s not getting any easier.”
Lt. Gen. Vincent R. Stewart serves as the Deputy Commander U.S. Cyber Command. Prior to his current assignment, Lt. Gen. Stewart served as the 20th Director of the Defense Intelligence Agency (2015-2017). He previously served as Commander, Marine Corps Forces Cyberspace Command (2013-2015) and Director of Intelligence, Headquarters, U.S. Marine Corps (2009-2013). Lt. Gen. Stewart’s full bio can be viewed here: https://www.cybercom.mil/About/Leadership/Bio-Display/Article/1335069/deputy-commander-uscybercom/