Press Center Conf Room, Ministry of Digital Governance
Thursday, October 10, 2019, 10:30 a.m.
Καλημέρα σας. Minister Pierrakakis, colleagues, I want to start by offering a tremendous thank you to the Ministry of Digital Governance for hosting this event and for the Ministry’s support in prioritizing cybersecurity along with all of the other issues that we collaborate on: entrepreneurship, digital governance, film production, space.
As one of my Washington colleagues mentioned to me earlier this week, this ministry does the work of five or six different agencies in the United States, so I’m really glad to count Minister Pierrakakis as both a great friend but also a collaborator as we seek to deepen the strategic relationship between our countries.
When the U.S. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross visited Athens last month, cybersecurity was one of the topics that he discussed with the Minister. This was also the case just a few days ago, when my boss, Secretary of State Pompeo, was here in Athens, and again discussed with Minister Pierrakakis and with the rest of the government our agenda in this area.
The United States government has promised to encourage more U.S. business collaboration with Greek, and I’m very glad today to be able to follow up on this agenda with concrete actions, beginning with today’s seminar.
I also want to recognize the President of Ridge Global, Steve Kohler, and note the service of Governor Tom Ridge, the Chairman and Founder of Ridge Global, who served as America’s first Secretary of Homeland Security after 9/11.
Cybersecurity is a challenging new frontier to our prosperity and our security. Critical infrastructure, national defense, and the daily lives of Greek and American citizens increasingly rely on computer-driven and interconnected information technologies, and both public and private entities must be proactive in securing their systems in the face of increasingly significant threats.
Malign state actors like China, Russia, North Korea, and Iran pose significant cyber espionage and cyber attack threats, something that I experienced first-hand during Russia’s cyber attack on the Ukrainian energy grid during my service as Ambassador in Kiev. In an era of renewed great power competition in the Eastern Mediterranean, where Greece plays such an important role as an American ally, dangerous state and non-state actors will seek to test our resilience with potentially destabilizing attacks.
The United States experienced this directly, when the Russian government conducted hybrid warfare against our democratic institutions and spread disinformation in our 2016 presidential election.
We have seen other recent examples of the Kremlin targeting international organizations with malicious cyberattacks, compromising groups such as the Organization for the Prevention of Chemical Weapons and the World Anti-Doping Agency, and I am confident this issue will be on the agenda of NATO Secretary General Stoltenberg as he visits Greece today.
The United States is committed to the collective defense of all NATO member states and to fighting malign influence, disinformation, and complex cyber threats across our transatlantic community. The global nature of cyberspace necessitates strong international engagement and cooperation through diplomacy and by building the capacity of our foreign partners, which is what we’re trying to do today.
Cyber capacity-building initiatives foster strategic partnerships that promote best practices and a common vision of an open, interoperable, reliable, and secure internet. They encourage investment and open new economic markets. They provide opportunities to share cyber threat information, enabling the United States and our partners to better defend global supply chains and domestic critical infrastructure like telecoms, energy, transport hubs, and hospitals.
These initiatives also facilitate a whole-of-government approach to cyber engagement and allow us to assist in strengthening our partners’ cybersecurity and cybercrime capabilities across agencies and ministries, an issue that I know is a priority for Minister Pierrakakis here in Greece, working with EYP, the Ministry of Defense, and other concerned Greek entities.
Last weekend, Secretary Pompeo and Foreign Minister Dendias kicked off our second Strategic Dialogue, which included high-level interagency representation from both countries, a testament to our efforts to reach further and to take our bilateral relationship to new heights.
As part of the Strategic Dialogue on Monday, I participated in a working lunch with Minister Pierrakakis, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Manisha Singh, and other senior U.S. and Greek officials where cybersecurity was an important topic of discussion. And I’m delighted the Department of Homeland Security, acting under Secretary Wolf, came to Athens as part of our Strategic Dialogue team, another sign of the excellent state of our law enforcement, counterterrorism, and homeland security cooperation.
Cybersecurity was also an area of common interest for the State Department’s Energy Envoy, Frank Fannon, and the Energy Ministers of Greece, Israel, and Cyprus when they met for the 3+1 Ministerial in August to discuss ways to increase our practical cooperation on energy and related issues.
As the world leader on cybersecurity, the United States will engage government and private sector experts to continue cooperation in the 3+1 framework and to share American experiences and expertise in energy-related cybersecurity with our three democratic friends.
Finally, in May, Greece joined the United States and more than 30 other countries to develop the Prague Proposals, which emphasize the need for 5G networks to be constructed based on free and fair competition, transparency, and the rule of law. During his speech on Saturday, Secretary Pompeo encouraged Greece to take “a hard look at the risks of allowing China to build sensitive 5G networks.”
In this regard, I want to commend Greece on beginning to implement its National Cybersecurity Strategy based on EU directives and on the current efforts to define its critical infrastructure. I also want to emphasize something I just heard the Prime Minister talking about at the Athens Democracy Forum, which is the challenge that China’s algorithm-driven authoritarianism poses to our democratic model of governance.
This discussion today on “Cyber Resilience and Best Practices” takes place during Cybersecurity Awareness Month in the United States, a collaborative effort between government and industry to raise awareness about the importance of cybersecurity and ensure that the United States and its partners have the resources they need to be safer and more secure online.
It will take a dedicated effort from both the public and private sectors to meet the emerging threats to our collective security, and that’s why today’s presentation is so important to our free and open democracies.
While continuously adapting to new security challenges, rest assured that the United States and Greece will continue to prioritize cyber policy issues as we take our bilateral relationship to new heights. And I am confident in this regard that the Department of Homeland Security and other U.S. agencies at the forefront of this effort will continue to prioritize their engagement with Greece. So I wish you all a most productive seminar. And Minister, I look forward to continuing to develop the really important partnership between our two governments on these issues that you’re charged with.