Revamping and securing our country’s civilian cyber infrastructure (Rep. Loretta Sanchez)

Recent cyber attacks against the official websites of the South Korean and American governments have created a new generation of national defense and homeland security issues for the U.S., which we must be ready to meet and defend against in the 21st century. Although the Internet has increasingly brought the world together, it has also added a new layer of threats from terror groups and rogue nations that are building up offensive cyber attack capabilities. Evidence of the crippling effects of cyber attacks was most recently seen during the Russian-Georgian war, when the Russian military shut down critical Georgian government websites in coordination with the ground attack on South Ossetia.

To protect the U.S. from this new era of cyber threats, Defense Secretary Robert Gates has announced the creation of a new centralized command dedicated to cyber warfare and securing military cyber assets and websites. The U.S. Cyber Command (USCYBERCOM) will employee thousands of “cyber warriors” to combat the growing number of cyber spies from countries like Russia and China that try to infiltrate our military cyber grid and gain intelligence. Although most Americans don’t realize that we’re engaged in daily combat against cyber warfare, these cyber warriors are truly unsung heroes who protect vital military assets oversees.

The Obama Administration has made revamping and securing our country’s civilian cyber infrastructure a cornerstone in his national security agenda. In recent remarks to the Council of Foreign Relations, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano pointed out the critical role DHS has as the sole protector of civilian government websites, as well as its efforts to help secure the private sector. Unlike the Defense Department, which has thousands of cyber warriors, DHS has only 100 employees dedicated to combating civilian cyber threats and building cyber security plans. With the gap between military and civilian cyber security personnel as large as it is, there needs to be strong government leadership to increase recruitment pools and employ the next generation of cyber leaders that will help and protect our civilian networks.

Unlike past Administrations, President Obama has also engaged and asked for counsel from crucial yet unconventional communities. This is most noted by the recent appointment of Jeff Moss, founder of the largest conference of hackers held annually, to the Homeland Security Advisory Council. Further, as the ranking female member on the House Armed Services Committee and Vice-Chair of the House Homeland Security Committee, I play a crucial role in making sure the Departments of Defense and Homeland Security have the tools and resources they need to fully defend our civilian and military cyber infrastructure. I believe that these unconventional allies and greater coordination with the private sector will help create a stronger, more resilient cyber security system.

Cross-posted from The Foundry.