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Kakto Presses Administration to Take Cybersecurity More Seriously

June 11, 2021 by Victoria Turner
Rep. John Katko, R-N.Y.

Rep. John Katko, R-N.Y. recently went into a couple of Lincoln car dealerships in Syracuse, New York, but “neither one of them had any cars.” 

“And they’re not going to have any cars for several weeks because of the chip shortage,” Katko said during a “fireside chat” hosted by the American Enterprise Institute.

Though the event’s theme was strengthening U.S. cybersecurity in the digital age, Katko was speaking more broadly than most as he weighed in on the issue, tying it to the ongoing shortage in the semiconductors that run everything from air conditioning units to smartphones.

The chip manufacturing snafu, he explained, is only a “microcosm of everything else tied to technology.”

Bringing his comments around to the subject at hand, Katko noted Taiwan manufactures about 85% of the world’s semiconductors. And he asked his listeners to imagine what would happen — worldwide — if, for example, China decided to launch a cyberattack that disrupted Taiwan’s supply chain.

Earlier this week, the U.S. Senate passed an expansive bill, 68-32, aimed at reinvigorating America’s technological footprint and countering such threats.

The legislation, called the Innovation and Competition Act, drew bipartisan support with the promise of bolstering America’s competitive edge by investing billions of dollars in scientific and technological innovations – including artificial intelligence, computer chips and robotics.

President Joe Biden praised passage of the bill, saying it addresses key elements that were included in his American Jobs Plan.

“I am encouraged by this bipartisan effort to advance those elements separately through this bill,” Biden said in a statement. “It is long past time that we invest in American workers and American innovation.”

Katko said he expected the bill will “fly” through the House, despite competing legislation that has been proposed there.

Though the U.S. is taking definitive steps to bring semiconductor manufacturing home, the reality is cyberattacks that have the potential to disrupt the economy appear to be becoming more frequent. In just the past few weeks the nation has witnessed ransomware attacks on the operators of the Colonial Pipeline, and more recently, on the world’s largest meat processor JBS.

Katko said the key to addressing these cyberattacks and others that are bound to occur in the future is “deterrence,” which he defined as “whacking the hell out of” the nation’s adversaries, one of his five pillars of cybersecurity. 

“Bad guys only understand strength and power,” Katko explained, and they won’t take the U.S. seriously unless it projects its strength and makes examples of those who take such actions against the country. 

Katko, a moderate Republican, said another reason he believes cybersecurity is becoming more rather than less of a problem is that President Joe Biden simply doesn’t fully appreciate the threat it poses to American security and Americans’ well-being.

Katko went on to express his displeasure at the fact Biden’s proposed budget — which the Republican decried as a “bloated…monstrosity” — nevertheless did not include any extra spending on the the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Agency, an operational component of the Department of Homeland Security.

Katko said the agency, which is charged with ensuring the security, resiliency, and reliability of the nation’s cybersecurity and communications infrastructure, should be well on its way to becoming a “$5 billion agency” but it is not.

“This is a new Cold War,” he said, adding that the real threat lies in not recognizing that and responding to it.

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