Perspective: Preparing for cyber security threats

With technology becoming more pervasive in our society, I was pleased to learn first-hand during recent visits to schools in our district that young people are taking steps to stay safe and secure on the Internet.

During a visit to a civics class of sophomore and junior students in Wardsville, the students were engaged when they quizzed me about my concerns regarding foreign cyber-attacks on military and civilian networks. At my next stop, I recognized 3rd, 4th, 5th and 6th graders from Hawthorn Elementary and Oak Ridge Intermediate in Camdenton R-III, who are first-in-the-nation in the Federal Bureau of Investigation Safe Online Surfing Internet challenge that helps students become responsible cyber citizens by giving them tools to avoid and report online dangers and use Internet resources wisely.

I am happy to know that these tech-savvy young people understand that the cyber threats, breaches, and attacks that we face daily and at a staggering pace are as great a threat to us as many of the conventional military threats we face today. These attacks, some of which are clearly acts of cyber-terrorism or cyber-espionage, are so involved and complex that without ever knowing that you or someone you know was targeted — information can be stolen off a government computer or a home computer with uncomfortable ease.

As an individual, it is important to have a general understanding of security awareness, but small businesses also need to educate themselves because they have taken the brunt of many of the cyber security attacks. According to a recent study conducted by computer security company Symantec, small businesses are the victims of nearly 40 percent of cyber-attacks in the United States. Even more alarming, statistics show that nearly 60 percent of small businesses will close within six months after a cyber-attack.

The House Small Businesses Committee’s Subcommittee on Health and Technology on which I serve investigates cyber security threats, and our panel recently held a hearing titled “New Technology and Cyber Security Threats.” This hearing provided me with the unique opportunity to listen to experts in this field seeking to examine the intersection of emerging technologies utilized by small businesses and the increased volume and complexity of cyber security attacks.

Recently, the administration released an executive order strengthening existing laws in order to combat the threats of hacking and cyber-espionage. This order has some of the same goals as the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection ACT (CISPA) by allowing the government to share classified cyber threat data with private sector entities so they can prepare networks for potential attacks.

I am a supporter of strengthening this nation’s readiness to stave off and combat cyber threats because in addition to money-driven hackers, there are terrorists and foreign nations interested in accessing the U.S. government’s and our small businesses’ information on strategic military plans, research, data on mergers and information on our infrastructure, financial networks, hospitals, and military bases. Making sure our cyber security policy is current will help American small businesses stay open and keep Americans information safe and secure. Therefore, we must continue our research and development of the best technology; encourage our youth to pursue high-tech educations and careers; promote awareness amongst parents, schools, and businesses; and enable our workforce and government to develop comprehensive cyber threat plans and to share threat information without disclosing personal information that is impertinent to the potential attack.

These are perilous times for our nation in what has become an ongoing cyber-war against aggressors both known and unknown. As we continue to remain vigilant against those who would do us harm, I am comforted that the young people I had the good fortune to meet and honor are our future cyberwarriors and I tend to believe that our future will be secure with folks like that on watch.

U.S. Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer, Republican from Missouri, represents the 3rd District, which includes Jefferson City. His local office call be reached at (573) 635-7232.

Web link:

luetkemeyer.house.gov

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