2016 hopeful O’Malley steps out on cybersecurity

2016 hopeful O’Malley steps out on cybersecurity
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Martin O’Malley is trying to make his mark as the Democratic presidential candidate most focused on cybersecurity.

The former Maryland governor on Tuesday penned an essay for Foreign Policy that laid out his cyber agenda in the wake of the recent breach that exposed 4 million federal workers’ records at the Office of Personnel Management (OPM).

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“A new agenda is urgently needed to improve our nation’s cybersecurity,” O’Malley said.

The OPM hack has suddenly thrust cybersecurity into the 2016 election.

GOP hopefuls have used the breach to lambaste President Obama’s policy on China, chastising him for not standing up to the Asian power.

But candidates seeking the Democratic nomination have been mostly mum on cybersecurity. Neither former Secretary of State Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonMeghan McCain: 'SNL' parodies made me feel like 'laughing stock of the country' Hill: Trump reelection would spur 'one constitutional crisis after another' Trump defends indicted GOP congressman MORE, the presumptive front-runner, nor Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersBiden says expanding Medicare to include hearing, dental and vision a 'reach' Schumer endorses democratic socialist India Walton in Buffalo mayor's race On The Money — Sussing out what Sinema wants MORE (I-Vt.) have made an issue of the OPM breach.

O’Malley’s essay wasn’t directly critical of Obama, but he did argue the government needs to better promote collaboration between the public and private sector, while also boosting funds for state-level initiatives to bolster the nation’s cyber defenses.

“Greater security requires greater investment,” O’Malley said. “Investing more resources in cybersecurity is an economic and national security priority.”

He pointed to the stalled cyber bill in Congress that would shield companies from legal liability when sharing data with the government about hackers. By enhancing this information exchange, the bill’s backers believe the country can better understand and defend against cyber threats.

But concerns the measure will simply shuttle more private data to intelligence agencies have caused it languish in the upper chamber. Senate Republicans are now trying to attach the offering to the annual defense spending bill in an effort to speed up its timeline.

“We need to ensure that privacy issues are directly and adequately addressed in order to build the trust necessary for businesses and other organizations to work with the government on the safeguards we need to protect both,” O’Malley said.

O’Malley also promoted state-level cyber investment, recalling his time as co-chairman of the Council of Governors.

“We pushed for every state’s National Guard to develop cybersecurity units, which could be established quickly and affordably, and tap the skill sets of civilians,” he said. “The federal government should support these efforts with financial and technical assistance.”

He contended that he applied all of these agenda items during his time as Maryland governor. He pointed to CyberMaryland, “an initiative to attract and convene new cybersecurity firms.”

“We targeted more than 40,000 state employees for cybersecurity training and conducted vulnerability assessments to test resilience to attacks,” he said. “We also created a cybersecurity tax credit and launched a program to train 1,000 workers for the industry.”

Cybersecurity was not a major campaign issue in the 2014 cycle, so it remains to be seen whether this flare-up lasts into the heat of the 2016 election season.

“Our digital information and networks are critical to our economic might and national security,” O’Malley said. “We should treat them like the precious resources that they are.”