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Editorial: Investing in cybersecurity

BY DI EDITORIAL BOARD | FEBRUARY 12, 2015 5:00 AM

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In February 2011, then-CIA Director Leon Panetta stated before the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence: “The potential for the next Pearl Harbor could very well be a cyber attack.” The warning did not come in isolation. Former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper had also issued a similar concern. He stated that “this threat is increasing in scope and scale.”

On Tuesday, President Obama addressed these concerns by announcing plans to open a new center that would be focused on defending the United States from cyber attacks. The plan, however, is double-forked. Obama is also expected to introduce an executive action that will force American companies to share more of their information on cyber attacks with the government.

Providing the government with information is a task that often involves liability for firms. Handing over private data or customer information puts companies at risk. Obama cannot protect companies from these with executive action alone; he hopes that by moving administratively, he can force Congress to pass a bill on this issue. Congress has not been able to approve legislation on this for the last three years.

Lisa Monaco, an adviser to President Obama, identified the four more common sources of cyber attacks against the United States, China, Russia, Iran, and North Korea. Considering the relationship that the United States has with these countries, this information is not surprising.

Cyber attacks can threaten many different aspects of our lives.  

In an era in which much of our information is stored online, a hack on one of our online accounts can result in a breach that exposes our personal information. In 2012, Yahoo confirmed that 400,000 accounts were hacked. Just last month, Microsoft verified that its Outlook email was compromised by hackers in China. These are just some examples. Cyber attacks of this sort can steal our most private data.

Financial institutions are not immune to this threat. During the summer of 2014, hackers were able to break into J.P. Morgan’s database, which is considered one of the most sophisticated systems in the world. The hackers were able to steal gigabytes of company information, some of it customer-account data. It’s believed that this attack on America’s largest bank could have been happening for months before alarms were set off. Investigators now believe that the attack may have originated from Russia.

Sony Pictures Entertainment was hacked last fall and resulted in the leaking of confidential information. The attack and subsequent threats resulted in Sony pulling the movie The Interview from its scheduled opening. Sony is expected to have lost approximately $75 million because of the breach.

The Daily Iowan Editorial Board believes that investing in cyber security is crucial for the United States, and Obama’s new center is a good step to take. Cyber attacks expose Americans to danger while they are in their own homes. The Internet is becoming the new battlefield in many ways, and the government must respond. However, there are real concerns regarding the government’s collection of American’s personal information without a warrant. If cyber security can be used in a way that constitutionally protects Americans’ privacy, then it is an absolutely necessary investment.


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