When Comey was asked to explain where some of the cyber threats come from, he described it as “an evil layer cake with nation states at the top, terrorist groups, international criminal syndicates, hactivists and thugs and criminals and child abusers and pedophiles.”
“Because our entire world is now on the internet, I’m told soon my sneakers will talk to my refrigerator to tell my refrigerator I just went for a run, but because our whole world is there, that’s where those who would do us harm come. So it runs every bad motive and every bad kind of person that you would imagine, that’s where the threat is,” he added.
Comey said when he returned to government after almost a decade-long absence, he discovered the terrorist threat had evolved in two ways.
He said the internet not only changed the lives of Americans, it has changed the nature of the terrorist threat as well.
“It’s no longer necessary to actually meet somebody in al Qaeda to get training and inspiration to conduct a terrorist attack here in the United States. Someone can do it in their pajamas in their basement,” said Comey.
“These are the homegrown, violent extremists that we worry about who can get all the poison they need and the training they need to kill Americans and in a way that’s very hard for us to spot between the time they emerge from their basement and maybe kill innocent Americans,” he said.
Comey said the U.S. military had shrunk the “tumor” that is core al Qaeda in the Afghanistan/Pakistan region, “but at the same time we had experienced a metastasis of that cancer.”
“The progeny of al Qaeda – this metastasis had sprung up in ungoverned or lightly governed spaces in North Africa, the Gulf, the Mediterranean in ways that are familiar to this committee,” Comey said, citing Syria and Iraq as “huge” examples.
“That metastasis coupled with travelers seeking to go to those safe havens to get the experience of being a terrorist to make those connections is a way in which that change strikes me,” he said, adding, “There will be a terrorist diaspora out of those areas, especially Syria - that we all wake up everyday thinking and worrying about.”