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Debilitating Cyber Attack: Not If, But When?

Leonard Grace

We all know how easy it can be to ignore or underestimate the possibly, or even likelihood, of a terrorist attack; just remember what happened on 9-11. That seems to be just what the U.S. is doing when it comes to a possible Cyber-Attack, no not in other countries, but right here at home where targets like private sector companies, who provide vital economic and emergency services to our population using broadband infrastructure, and are woefully under-secured for such attacks.

Government and private sector leaders have never liked working together; harkening back to the beginning of early entrepreneurship and inherent government distrust created from taxation laws to monopoly busting legislation, making it almost impossible to effectively work together. Government has become the incessant business gatekeeper both regulating and de-regulating based on the current political climate.

"Cyber-attacks against government agencies and businesses in the United States continue to rise, and cyber threats will one day surpass the danger of terrorism to the United States, intelligence community officials said in an open hearing of the Senate select intelligence community Tuesday." (See Cyber Attacks Becoming Top Terror Threat, FBI Says)

Realistically, what would the enemy, those who wish to harm our economy, therefore us, rather do; create an army of terrorist subject to drone attack, or work behind the scenes in the cyber-world, broadband connected to us, to hack and destroy our infrastructure? Hmmm...seems like an obvious choice going forward.

But somehow our twisted logic is focused on fighting ourselves, business against government, political grandstanding, and special interests; all impervious to any impending threat, with a single-mindedness of profit vs. safety and security, while not realizing that both are intertwined and each dependent on the other.

The need to pass common-sense legislation which addresses the impending cyber threat cannot be under emphasized, less we go down the path where history repeats itself, (9-11). It's not if an attack is going to happen, but when the attack will happen. (See A Cyber Risk to the U.S. —Washington Post Opinion)

The Obama administration has moved to address the threat with proposed legislation that would work to secure our Cyber Infrastructure which was proposed in May 2012 by the White House. Howard Schmidt, Cyber-Security Coordinator called on congress to update existing laws referring to the recent plan. But congress has failed to update cyber-security legislation in the past, again due to an impasse of consensus from both sides of the isle. (See Protecting the Nation's Electric Grid from Cyber Threats —White House Blog)

"That's why, working with our military leaders, I've proposed a new defense strategy that ensures we maintain the finest military in the world, while saving nearly half a trillion dollars in our budget. To stay one step ahead of our adversaries, I've already sent this Congress legislation that will secure our country from the growing dangers of cyber-threats." (See Remarks by the President in State of the Union Address)

Other legislative proposals have been introduced including a Senator Joseph I. Lieberman, (I-Conn) sponsored bill which seems to be popular after ditching sections like proposed information sharing mandates. (See Senators argue cyber-security leadership)

Our broadband infrastructure is growing fast with more businesses and consumers depending on the inter-woven connectedness that business and government provide which continues to proliferate throughout our lives. Can we afford to be vulnerable hackers on a national scale?

We all can agree that protecting both business and government infrastructure is vital from cyber-security standpoint. The threat is real and impending. Yet the gridlock in congress continues unabated as our economic safety and security hang precariously in the balance. Do we need another 9-11 type cyber-attack to convince us? I hope not.

By Leonard Grace, Founder & Editor - Broadband Convergent
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Share your comments

Congress is the answer? Christopher Parente  –  Feb 14, 2012 7:15 PM PDT

I certainly agree that more needs to be done. Beyond that, I'm not sure I follow your editorial. Are you saying that a public/private partnership cannot work, and we need Congressional legislation to ensure cybersecurity?

According to some very smart people I've spoken to on this question, that's not how online security works. See FISMA for example A.

Christopher, thanks for the comment and resource!The Leonard Grace  –  Feb 15, 2012 6:31 AM PDT

Christopher, thanks for the comment and resource!

The FISMA is a good resource, setting standards for cyber security. This seems to be a voluntary resource, therefore voluntary compliance. I'm not fond of over-reaching legislation that stifles business growth or independence. However, on that same note, we should require compliance with standards that ensure protection of our infrastructure, both private and public.

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