National Cyber Director Proposed to Coordinate Computer Security
WASHINGTON – Democrats and Republicans agreed Wednesday during a congressional hearing that the U.S. government needs a more proactive strategy for protecting against cyberattacks but disagreed how to accomplish it.
Democrats want a new agency to address cyberthreats while Republicans suggest working more aggressively through existing sectors of the government.
They also agreed the coronavirus pandemic demonstrates the nation’s vulnerability to cyberattacks.
Cyberattacks represent “a growing threat” as political adversaries like China, Russia, Iran and North Korea seek to disrupt U.S. computer systems and steal intellectual property, said Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney, D-N.Y., chairwoman of the House Oversight and Reform Committee.
The most recent example she mentioned was an effort by China to steal intellectual property being developed for a coronavirus vaccine.
American pharmaceutical companies are racing to develop a vaccine that could be worth hundreds of billions of dollars in international sales.
Law enforcement agencies report tracing Internet traffic and other markers in computer code indicating the Chinese are trying to tap into records of the pharmaceutical researchers.
Congress is searching for a solution “to ensure we are fully prepared for and coordinated” for cyberattacks, Maloney said.
The leading legislative proposal for confronting the threats is H.R. 7331, the National Cyber Director Act.
The bill would set up 75 cybersecurity experts in a new White House office to oversee the federal government’s efforts to protect the nation’s computer networks. They would be authorized to review the cybersecurity budgets of other federal agencies, recommend changes and to coordinate the response to a national cyberattack emergency.
Currently, federal cybersecurity is spread across multiple agencies.
The bill was included among recommendations in a report by the Cyberspace Solarium Commission, which was authorized under the 2019 national defense budget. The report released in March proposes a layered strategy for cyberdeterrence.
The co-chair of the commission was Rep. Mike Gallagher, R-Wis., who also testified during the hearing Wednesday. He co-sponsored the National Cyber Director Act.
In a statement before the hearing he said, “The coronavirus has elevated the importance of cyberinfrastructure and demonstrated how incredibly disruptive a major cyberattack could be. But while we are woefully unprepared for a cybercalamity, there is still time to right the ship.”
During the hearing, he said the U.S. government and private companies were getting better at detecting threats from hackers.
However, “The threats are getting better as well,” Gallagher said.
Michael J. Rogers, chairman of the public policy foundation Center for the Study of the Presidency and Congress, said the U.S. government needs to be preventive rather than waiting to respond to a cybersecurity crisis.
A single national cyber director could work across different agencies to coordinate prevention efforts, he said.
He also warned that waiting too long would make a crisis unavoidable as adversaries increase their budgets and staffing for cyberattacks.
“They know it has high impact but low consequence,” Rogers said.
He added, “All of them are stepping up their game.”
In The News
WASHINGTON — Just days before the Aug. 3 scheduled start of school, officials at the Athens Independent School District in East Texas received a shock. Cybercriminals had attacked the district’s entire computer network, encrypting all the data and demanding $50,000 in ransom for its release. Access... Read More
WASHINGTON -- The FBI’s director acknowledged Thursday that the risks of terrorism and other attacks against the United States are evolving so fast that his agency has difficulty managing them. Cyberattackers threaten the next presidential election, COVID-19 vaccine development and U.S. industries’ best research into new... Read More
Groups from Russia, China and Iran have stepped up cyberattacks in an effort to disrupt the U.S. presidential election in November, a Microsoft Corp. investigation found. The groups have increased cyberattacks targeting the political campaigns of Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden and U.S. President Donald Trump,... Read More
CAMBRIDGE, Mass. - Election officials across the country have a new tool to help them recognize and respond to malicious interference in the votes they oversee. Created by the Belfer Center at Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government, the new "Election Influence Operations Playbook" focuses on... Read More
WASHINGTON — Terrorism hasn’t disappeared just because a pandemic is happening. In fact, calamitous world conditions embolden those who want to do others harm, and police budget cuts, virus-related conspiracy theories, and other vulnerabilities are exacerbated during the COVID-19 crisis. To better understand the impact of... Read More
WASHINGTON — U.S. officials said they see little evidence of coordinated voter fraud or efforts by foreign adversaries to manipulate mail-in balloting ahead of the November election even as President Donald Trump repeatedly warns that the vote is at risk. In a briefing Wednesday, intelligence officials... Read More