By Thomas Regan
Amid growing concerns over changing threats from terrorist organizations, New Jersey’s director of homeland security implored a public forum at Rider to join him in protecting America from “main street terrorism” and building “cyber security.”
Dr. Chris Rodriguez, speaking on Feb. 9 at an event of the Rebovich Institute for New Jersey Politics, urged students to consider entering Rider’s new homeland security program.
“For those of you sitting here tonight, considering whether to take the minor in homeland security or to go through with the major, I would say the burden of these challenges rests on you,” Rodriguez said. “I would encourage you, as well, not to be discouraged by the strength, the resolve and the capabilities of our adversaries.”
Rodriguez pointed to the randomness of main street terrorism as a the primary concern.
“This attack method tends to be smaller in scale, carried out by individuals inspired or affiliated with radical groups,” Rodriguez said. “And rather than the attacks we are accustomed to in the past, including 9/11, against airports, against sporting venues, large buildings, terrorists are targeting coffee shops, markets, workplaces, not because of their scope or scale, but because of their unpredictability.”
With main street terrorism stretching across the world, most recently in Sydney and Paris, Rodriguez described the challenge of employing successful preventative measures.
“Less-sophisticated main street terrorism is rapidly becoming the primary threat to our safety and security,” Rodriguez said. “And what this dynamic does is that it forces the law enforcement and intelligence communities to rely increasingly, although not exclusively, on tips and leads, as well as our relationships with community leaders and authorities. This main street terrorism is notoriously difficult to detect and to deter.”
In regard to cyber security, Rodriguez highlighted the infamous Sony Pictures hack as a prime example of the potential for serious danger in the virtual world. However, he admits there are a lot of unknowns in regards to what hackers will do with information gathered from successful hacks.
“Now, what we don’t know is how or if these intrusions can be further operationalized to conduct economic warfare,” Rodriguez said. “What the federal government told us is that the vast majority of these cyber intrusions enter the systems through vulnerabilities that can be plugged with existing and commercially available technology. What this means is that victims generally do not employ simple security measures to protect their systems.”
In an effort to strengthen the cyber security within New Jersey, Rodriguez aspires to provide a free protection consultation.
After listening to Rodriguez describe New Jersey and the world’s preventative efforts to protect against terrorism, sophomore accounting major David Campbell said he felt better.
“Dr. Rodriguez brought an insightful mind to Rider, and he has 10 years of experience working for the CIA. His thoughts and ideas are incredibly valuable,” Campbell said. “While listening to his speech, I felt that New Jersey citizens can look forward to a greater overall sense of security, both within the state and with international travel arrangements.”
However, the future of safety will be contingent upon the number of bright minds Rodriguez can convince to pursue a career in homeland security.
“Americans have carried the heavy burden in ensuring the security of our way of life, and ensuring the security of our allies around the world and our strength as a nation,” Rodriguez said. “And I hope that you will join me in fulfilling this solemn duty.”
By Thomas Regan