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Is cyber warfare no big deal to Washington?

November 15, 2017

Last Sunday there was a congressional hearing involving what amounted to the excoriation of the management of Yahoo, Verizon and Equifax regarding data breaches that exposed customer data.

Consumers are rightly outraged that these massive companies either won’t or can’t protect our data.

They are even more outraged that a company could actually profit from it, either by charging to put credit locks on their accounts or as in the case of Equifax (which controls the credit monitoring company, Lifelock) by trying to sell them a product to correct what are essentially the company’s own failings..

Many of the committee member questions were those you have probably would have asked yourself, and frankly, some of the answers were infuriating, particularly from Equifax.

But one point was missing.

Granted, some of  the companies in question and a hundred more like them apparently don’t use all the tools at their disposal in a timely fashion. Others, at least as detailed by former Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer, hire outside contractors to run mock attacks to identify vulnerabilities before they become actual breaches, often at considerable cost, yet are still unsuccessful.

In the case of retail or consumer-based businesses that drives up the cost of everything we buy today.

However one beleaguered attorney did bring up a point about public-private partnerships to deal with cyber security that the members promptly ignored. That almost gave the hearing the appearance of a mock trial.

These breaches are nothing more than cyber warfare, so why isn’t there an effective government strategy to deal with them in a global context?

What proactive steps is the government taking to protect all of us, even Equifax?

Yes, it does reactively send out patches for existing breach possibilities, but quite frankly, the government itself has suffered some pretty stunning security failures, à la the OPM breach that compromised more than 20 million Americans.

Yet even today, just buying a Apple phone can shield the bad guys from discovery.

The face of warfare today has changed a lot from 1941, the North Korea mess and the Middle East notwithstanding. Today the death of one soldier in a combat environment brings about a very public  investigation not unlike that of a murder in a civilian setting.

If only we had the same level of political concern and public zeal in the case of cyber defense.

The strategy of placing the onus on millions of private companies to individually protect us is laughable. Expecting private citizens to adequately protect themselves is even more ridiculous.

It’s perhaps fair to say in hindsight that the internet genie should never have been taken out of the bottle, but we are apparently stuck with it now.

That leaves the rest of us wondering when the government is going to take the threats it presents seriously.

Or do the DoD, DHS and NSA think these hackers and cyber criminals are part of the JV team too?


From → op-ed

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