Reports on February 19th that the Chinese government has been involved in an intensive on-going cyber-espionage campaign aimed at the U.S. government and a number of American companies were most alarming. President Obama’s top security officials last month said they are struggling to defend the nation from attacks on its private computer networks. It appears the problems are massive and both our economy and national security are threatened. While Congress was urged to pass legislation that would close regulatory gaps, it appears that much more needs to be done. The President signed an executive order in early February that relies heavily on participation from U.S. industry in creating new voluntary standards for protecting information. The order also expands the government’s effort to share threat data with companies. Gen. Keith Alexander, head of the National Security Agency and U.S. Cyber Command, had this to say:
The government is often unaware of malicious activity targeting our critical infrastructure. These blind spots prevent us from being in a position of helping critical infrastructure defend itself and it prevents us from knowing when we need to defend the nation.
President Obama said that America’s enemies are “seeking the ability to sabotage our power grid, our financial institutions and our air traffic control systems.” That should get the attention of all Americans and specifically those in positions of leadership. The President made this assessment of the problem:
We cannot look back years from now and wonder why we did nothing in the face of real threats to our security and our economy. Now, Congress must act as well by passing legislation to give our government a greater capacity to secure our networks and deter attacks.
The President’s executive order has been months in the making and is the product of often-difficult negotiations with private sector companies that oppose any increased government regulation. Under the President’s new order, the National Institute of Standards and Technology has a year to finalize a package of voluntary standards and procedures that will help companies address their cybersecurity risks. The package must include flexible, performance-based and cost-effective steps that critical infrastructure companies can take to identify the risks to their networks and systems and ways they can manage those risks. The order also calls for agencies to review their existing regulations to determine whether the rules adequately address cybersecurity risks.
Congress has been struggling for more than three years to reach a consensus on cybersecurity legislation. Given that failure and the escalating risks to critical systems, President Obama turned to the executive order as a stopgap measure with the hope that lawmakers will be able to pass a bill this year. Obviously much more must be done. A White House spokesman said that cybersecurity legislation is necessary to address gaps in the executive order. The latest reports concerning the actions by China’s military make it extremely urgent for Congress to become more involved and to take all necessary action required. This is a highly technical and complex issue, but one that must be addressed immediately. Unfortunately, it hasn’t received the attention that it obviously deserves. That must change!
Source: Claims Journal
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