The ironies abound in Washington as usual. Just as news reports were surfacing that online marauders from ISIS had infiltrated the Twitter and YouTube accounts of US Central Command, or centcom (why exactly do they have social media accounts?), President Obama was unveiling a milquetoast plan to harden the cyber defenses of the US and its major corporations, including hacking victims such as Sony, Home Depot, and Target.
Among other bureaucratic measures, his plan calls for stiffer penalties on hackers – as if we can find them in North Korea (see: White House Aims to Harden Cyberattack Defense, White House Cyber Plan Relies On Government, Corporate Cooperation).
Cyber incidents, including those at Sony, Target, and Home Depot, have gone up about 150% since the start of the Obama administration to over 228,000 per year. This is not just a sign that digital technology has advanced. We have seen feckless and reckless leadership from the White House in that time as well, which is now making excuses for bureaucratic mission creep at a time when we are more vulnerable than we were just before 9-11.
There was a package of four bills that passed through the Homeland Security committees in congress in December but these merely addressed bureaucratic protocols in government.
We need a far more robust counter-hacking program on a very urgent basis founded on bold leadership and a solutions orientation to confront this major threat that might start with some basic measures including the following elements:
- Each Fortune 500 company should urgently establish a cyber-security unit, especially those that maintain sensitive infrastructure in the US.
- Congress should quickly pass legislation that allows major corporations to have cybersecurity executives earn security clearances and establish a public-private partnership with real authority to thwart cyber threats from rogue nations.
- A third party facilitator should be established to review breaches and share information from both the public and private sectors.
Privacy hawks are right to mistrust any proposal from a White House that has allowed precious tax dollars to be used for spying on law-abiding US citizens through NSA snooping programs (see: In Wake of Obama Cybersecurity Plan, CIOs Still Cautious on Info Sharing). One key step to ensure more collaboration between the private and public sectors is to allow immunity to cooperating companies that share information from cyber security breaches and attacks.
It will not be long before we are talking about the next hacking scandal that was initiated by North Korea, China, Russia, or Iran, which could target sensitive infrastructure in the US. Imagine the teams of cyber terrorists plotting and penetrating sensitive systems that control our nuclear arsenals, power plants, airports, and corporate data centers. Therefore, GOP should take the lead and add urgency to US responses to major hacking attacks.
The attacks on Sony and others were merely just the start of terrorist attacks that we will endure on a new warfront. That is why the private sector must also not count on the government to solve the problem. Major corporations must take stronger measures of their own since we will continue to see no leadership from this White House.
This warfront requires a serious mobilization of technology and assets to thwart these attacks, and not the pathetic work around the edges by the White House and last congress. It is time for the US to get in the game and act.
See my comments on FOX Business Network’s Opening Bell on the White House Cyber Security plan here: White House looks to tighten defense against cyber attacks.