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COATS COLUMN: Address Growing Cyber Threats

June 17, 2014

Address Growing Cyber Threats
Senator Dan Coats

Over the past several months, we have seen firsthand that threats to our nation’s cyber security are real and growing.

Indiana University announced in February that the names, addresses and Social Security numbers of approximately 146,000 students and recent graduates were potentially exposed due to a cyber security breach. Public universities in Maryland and Virginia have been recent targets of similar attacks.

Hundreds of thousands and potentially millions of Hoosiers were affected by the single greatest corporate hack in American history – the December cyber attacks on Target customers. It is estimated that the financial and identity security of 70 million to 110 million Target shoppers was compromised.

AOL’s 120 million users and eBay’s 148 million active accounts were hit in April and May, respectively, demonstrating that even pioneers of the Internet era are not immune to harm.

Given this ever-growing threat, it is imperative that Congress renew its commitment to cyber security legislation that protects our economy and Indiana businesses. In addition to the deletion or illegal sharing of data, cyber attacks can affect critical infrastructure, like our electric grid or water treatment plants. This is a bipartisan issue that affects all Americans and the future of our country.

After September 11, 2001, we broke down the barriers to information sharing and provided our intelligence and law enforcement professionals with the tools they need to keep us safe. Today, we must break down similar barriers that exist in cyber security to respond to the increasing number of attacks against private companies and the federal government.

Neither industry nor government alone can address this problem. Our nation’s vulnerability requires all stakeholders to work together to develop an enduring solution that removes barriers to information-sharing and protects our critical networks.

Upon my return to the Senate, I joined with other leaders of the key congressional committees to produce meaningful cyber security legislation. Our bill enhanced information sharing without creating costly layers of government bureaucracy or imposing new regulatory burdens on American businesses. It updated our criminal laws to account for growing cyber threats and enhanced research programs to protect our networks. Most importantly, our initiative struck the right balance between strengthening security and respecting the privacy rights of Americans.

I will continue to be actively involved in bipartisan efforts to iron out the political differences that exist on cyber security legislation, because immediate action is needed.

Earlier this year, when appearing before the Senate Intelligence Committee to provide the Intelligence Community’s worldwide threat assessment, James Clapper, the Director of National Intelligence, placed cyber security at the top of his list of threats, ahead of terrorism.

It seems there are few issues a divided Congress can agree on in an election year, but this must be one. All Hoosiers and all Americans have a stake addressing this problem.

Sen. Dan Coats is a Republican from Indiana.

One Response to “ COATS COLUMN: Address Growing Cyber Threats ”

  1. Andrew on August 3, 2014 at 9:56 am

    Dear Mr. Coats,

    I read your column with some degree of interest. I have been involved in the computer industry since the mid-80′s and know well some of the issues you bring up. I have a few points that occurred to me reading this:

    You say:

    “Neither industry nor government alone can address this problem.
    Our nation’s vulnerability requires all stakeholders to work
    together to develop an enduring solution that removes barriers to
    information-sharing and protects our critical networks.”

    This is actually incorrect. By staying on-top of patches to the networking device systems, and server operating systems much if not all of these problems can be resolved.

    Application security is another matter, the usage of computers in business has accelerated past the point of being able to supply qualified engineers to create safe applications that are immune from attack. Much of the problems come from out-sourcing development of software to India where there is only fresh engineers with little background.

    There is already sharing of information regarding potential threats with organizations like CERT (existing since the 80′s).

    Finally the kind of sharing that you suggest involves putting the responsibility on the NSA to safeguard everything, which may in one case release the responsibility from the business owners, but we have seen how such information has been abused.

    I personally think if you want to do something for Hoosiers you might look a uniform privacy policy — which nearly every country in the industrial world has — except ours.

    The privacy comments that have been made by you folks in Washington say that no americans are targeted in the NSA probes of telephone calls leaving the country. Well I am an Ex-pat american living abroad — and I have never registered my phone number with the US embassy or whatever else. I make frequent calls home to take care of personal matters. Tell me please how this organization manages to filter my calls out?

    The point is they can’t and this is all just more smoke and mirrors that is wrapped in clever packaging to hand over more information — not less about our daily lives.

    When a person visits a website they leave a trace of themselves in the form of an access log. This is done on every Webserver. Your proposition to share this information (presumably with government) is the same problem as the whole telephone call gathering scandal.

    When can we expect legislation from you all that properly addresses the needs of citizens?

    Sincere Regards