October is National Cybersecurity Awareness Month. Most Americans are constantly connected to cyberspace in one way or another. From surfing the worldwide web to storing electronic records, most Americans have a footprint in cyberspace. Simply stated—online systems are part of our daily lives.
Today, criminal groups and hostile nations look to cyberspace to attack American interests here at home and around the world. America’s banks, energy sector, and intellectual property are routinely targeted by criminal hackers and foreign governments alike. A successful attack on these critical infrastructures could threaten our safety, and certainly impair our economy.
I am proud that after years of Congressional deadlock on what approach to take to address the complex issues in cyber security, I am an original cosponsor of H.R. 3696, The National Cybersecurity and Critical Infrastructure Protection Act, bipartisan legislation that passed the House of Representatives earlier this year. The legislation gives the Department of Homeland Security authority to carry out its civilian and government-wide cyber mission, provides incentives for young professionals to consider government-based cyber careers protecting America, and increases protection for our privately owned national critical infrastructure.
Despite the cyber threats we face as a country, we must approach the cyber threat in a way that is consistent with traditional American values, and by respecting personal privacy while aiming to achieve a consistent level of cyber security. While we increase our national security, we must continue to guarantee the safeguards for the constitutional rights of privacy and freedom of speech.
Effective cyber protection depends on strong private sector cooperation, leadership, and accountability to focus on our nation’s most pressing cyber vulnerabilities, protecting critical infrastructure systems in our country. H.R. 3696 asks that business and government find an adaptable and cooperative cyber security framework for both the public and private sector that is not an off-the-shelf or check-the-box solution.
As our reliance on technology increases, so do our vulnerabilities, but we must remember that privacy and security are not competing interests. We can, and must, focus on both. As people become more dependent on technology, it can be increasingly exploited for crime, espionage, and physical disruption. Unless we are able to foster an environment where cyber security is the rule, and not the exception, America’s networks cannot be more secure and resilient.
Cybersecurity is a shared responsibility, and no one approach can protect us completely. Public and private partners must join together in helping protect our nation’s cyber infrastructure.
Thompson has represented Mississippi's 2nd Congressional District since 1993. He is ranking member on the Homeland Security Committee.