The next president and Congress must win the cyber war on terror

The next president and Congress must win the cyber war on terror

The moment of truth is here. That is the moment where we acknowledge that the greatest foe in future warfare will not be found in desert sand, darkened cave or jungle bush, nor will they require us to storm an enemy beach or dogfight in unforgiving airspace. That is because America’s enemies have recoiled and restructured for a new theater of war. 

The trenches of modern warfare are now being tunneled in cyberspace, and our next president and Congress must dig in and give comfort to the American public that we will commit to winning the cyber war on terror. 


America’s Cold War has become a Code War. Last week’s announcement by Yahoo that state-sponsored hackers raided 500 million customer accounts is just the latest in a year of increasingly aggressive state-led cyberattacks against American consumers, government and economic interests.

In 2016 alone we’ve seen Russian intelligence services hack the servers of the Democratic National Committee and release the personal emails and phone numbers of members of Congress and congressional staff. We have knowledge that foreign hackers breached voter registration systems in my home state of Illinois and in Arizona in a possible attempt to influence the November elections. And we know that a Russian hacker is behind high-profile attacks on American social networking companies LinkedIn and Tumblr.

These incidents — like the 2015 North Korea hack on Sony — have come to light because they are cyber battles in a greater cyber war that we did not win. And they aren’t rare occurrences. State-sponsored hackers are regularly attempting to take down international banking services and U.S. government websites and wiping the computer servers of multibillion-dollar American companies.

We are now in the midst of World War 3.0 and cannot afford to fight this as a silent war in the shadows. Just as America prioritized personnel recruitment in our spy agencies and defense modernization in our military during the Cold War, we must do the same today for the Code War. Congress must be actively engaged in promoting initiatives, legislation and funding streams that help our national security apparatus and international partners deal with cyber threats. And as we consider the stakes of the next four years, it is important that we realize that the next American president must be prepared to be our first cyber wartime president. 

We must commit now to winning the Code War. We must make it a priority to inspire the patriotism of today’s “greatest generation” and collaborate with corporate America to lure the best computer minds and innovators into government. The future of our democratic elections, electric grid and economic infrastructure depend on it, and our national security now hinges on our ability to recruit more Mark Zuckerbergs than Jason Bournes.

Kelly is U.S. representative of Illinois’s 2nd congressional district and serves as the ranking member of the Information Technology Subcommittee on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.