Jamie Dimon on what keeps him up at night: 'Cyber is ... so bad'

Michael B. Kelley
Head of Audience Development

JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon stressed the importance of cybersecurity in his annual letter to shareholders and when he sat down with Yahoo Finance Editor-in-Chief Andy Serwer.

Asked what keeps him up at night, the CEO of America’s largest bank by assets replied: “I think cyber is — it’s literally so bad. And the government knows. But we need to get better faster. I mean, this is an arms race, and we’d better do better at it.”

Both U.S. government agencies and private companies have suffered massive breaches in the last few years. Furthermore, the scale and scope of the threats are increasing as attackers become bolder and more skilled.

Several prominent officials recently lamented on the country’s lack of preparedness.

“We seem to be the, you know, cyber punching bag of the world,” Senator Dan Sullivan, R-Alaska, said during the arch confirmation hearing of Army Lt. Gen. Paul M. Nakasone as the head of the NSA and U.S. Cyber Command.

Lieutenant General Paul Nakasone, nominee to lead the National Security Agency and US Cyber Command, testifies before the Senate Intelligence Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., March 15, 2018. REUTERS/Aaron P. Bernstein

Nakasone replied that when it comes to cyber deterrence, U.S. adversaries “don’t fear us. It is not good, senator.” He later added: “I think that our adversaries have not seen our response in sufficient detail to change the behavior.”

U.S. Army General Curtis Scaparrotti, who is also NATO’s Supreme Allied Commander, recently told U.S. lawmakers that U.S. government agencies aren’t collaborating enough.

“I don’t believe there is an effective unification across the interagency, with the energy and the focus that we could attain,” Scaparrotti said.

In his letter to shareholders, Dimon highlighted the need for better cyber defenses and called for more private-public collaboration.

“I cannot overemphasize the importance of cybersecurity in America,” Dimon wrote. “This is a critical issue, not just for financial companies but also for utilities, technology companies, electrical grids and others. It is an arms race, and we need to do whatever we can to protect the United States of America.

“Our bank is extremely good at cybersecurity and client protection. However, cyber law in the United States is inadequate regarding banks and government entities. We need to be allowed to work even closer with our government in real time to properly protect the financial system.”

Dimon speaking with Yahoo Finance Editor-in-Chief Andy Serwer.

Dimon added that “we need to have better international cyber laws (and include them in trade agreements) like we do in maritime and aviation laws.” There is near-universal agreement among American leaders and experts that international norms need to catch up with cyber realities.

“Countries should know what they are responsible for — and what redress companies or countries have — when either a bad state actor or criminals in a state cause extreme problems,” Dimon asserted.

Follow Michael B. Kelley on Twitter @MichaelBKelley.

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