Who Will Protect the Government Against Cybercrime?

For the general public, identity theft, online security, and credit card fraud are an ever increasing concern in the technology age in which we live. But what about the federal government? Most people may think the government is impenetrable to cyber threats, hackers, and security breaches, but this is far from true. In fact, hackers are now probing the deepest layers of every federal government agency according to the Department of Homeland Security. The good news is that the cyber intruders are from the Department of Homeland Security. That’s right, DHS is conducting exercises to test vulnerabilities in federal computer systems that contain sensitive data, which are also prime targets for legitimately malicious hackers.

The strategy is part of the greater Cybersecurity National Action Plan (CNAP), a plan proposed by President Obama that takes near-term actions and puts in place a long-term strategy to increase cybersecurity awareness and protections, protect privacy, maintain public safety as well as economic and national security and empower Americans to have more control of their digital security (www.whitehouse.gov).

When we think about how much of our personal information is stored online (e-mail, bank information, online stores, bill payment information, etc.), it’s important to remember that going paperless gives experienced hackers more ease of access to our digitized information especially when operating on unprotected networks or repeatedly using weak or multiple identical passwords. The infographic below explains how hackers think and what little regard they can have when it comes to stealing digital information.

After the 2015 breach of information from the Office of Personnel Management’s (OPM) system wherein the information of 21.5 million United States national security professionals and their families’ information was exposed, the Department of Homeland Security devised a civilian agency cybersecurity strategy as a part of the Cybersecurity National Action Plan. The agency’s utilization of the abovementioned authorized hacking comes as federal government agencies are taking stock of information technology tools and databases that would ultimately send the government into disarray if these tools and databases become compromised (www.nextgov.com).

Although this is not President Obama’s first endeavor to protect the United States against cybercrime, the plan does symbolize Obama’s last effort to ensure progress in an ongoing effort to strengthen the nation’s online security. Since 2010, $73 billion has been spent to protect the nation against organized cybercrime, but the President’s most recent plan will request an additional $19 billion in funding to support cybersecurity activities, which include a commission on enhancing national cybersecurity, public service campaigns, and funds for replacing antiquated, unsecure government information technology.

Just ten years ago, the idea of spending billions on the nations’ digital safety would have been unthinkable, but in 2016 and beyond, the concept of creating multibillion-dollar information technology systems and security is all too real. According to nextgov.com, designing new and more secure systems is an imperative as the latest high-profile hack of a Justice Department computer system leaked the contact information of 9,000 Department of Homeland Security personnel as well as 20,000 Federal Bureau of Investigation employees. With that being said, there is still much work to be done as adversaries of the United States are quickly learning that it may be easier to attack the nations’ cyber networks in both the public and private sector than it is to attack tangible areas.

As the President stated on Tuesday, 9 February 2016, “More and more, keeping America safe is not just a matter of more tanks, more aircraft carriers; not just a matter of bolstering our security on the ground. “It also requires us to bolster our security online” (www.nextgov.com). Obama’s plan allows the Federal Government to acquire new information now and lays forward the conditions necessary for long-term progression in the government’s approach to protecting the cybersecurity of the Federal Government, the private sector, and in personal lives (Fact Sheet: Cybersecurity National Action Plan). Thus, President Obama’s cybersecurity plan is designed not only to protect the government and individual citizens, but to also protect the companies that store vast amounts of sensitive data belonging to the general American public.