RI Dem: Cybersecurity education should be top priority

Cybersecurity education should be policymakers' first priority, a key House Democrat told an industry conference Thursday.

Funding cyber education “is probably the single most important policy imperative we can address in D.C.,” said Rep. Jim Langevin (D-R.I.), co-chair of the Congressional Cybersecurity Caucus.

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Langevin was on hand at a Committee for Economic Development event to promote a cyber education initiative, “Think Before You Link,” which Intel and Discovery launched Thursday.

“Right now, we’re desperately short of those true cyber experts that can operate at the highest levels,” said Langevin, a member of the Armed Services Committee. “Part of the shortage is a result of the lag time in education. Cyber is a relatively new domain, so our universities are still ramping up cyber training capacity.”

The government can help not only through funding, but also by raising the public awareness of cybersecurity, Langevin said. "Building a pipeline really comes down to getting kids interested."

In his own words, Langevin has been trying to “raise the alarm” on cybersecurity. He recently warned that terrorist groups like the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) are getting closer to the cyber capabilities of nation states, making the U.S.'s critical infrastructure “very vulnerable.”

“Right now, cyber criminals possess state-level capabilities, immense skills, huge financial incentives, and in many cases legal havens that afford them almost complete sanctuary,” he said Wednesday. “They can operate with near impunity out of countries such as Russia and China, beyond the reach of American and European law enforcement agencies.” 

Hackers in Russia and China are widely suspected in attacks on federal agencies, major banks and numerous retailers.

The U.S. has made a limited number of arrests for these crimes, mostly due to extradition difficulties.

“This is a hard nut to crack, and the only way to get there is by slow, deliberate diplomacy,” Langevin said. “We have to make the countries that harbor cyber crime realize that it is in their best interests to cease and desist.”

In recent months, the U.S. has made little progress on cybersecurity talks with China or Russia.

“It’s a plodding, time-consuming process, but it’s absolutely necessary,” Langevin said. “Cybersecurity is inextricably linked with every aspect of our future economy.”