AS WE EMERGE from our pandemic mindset there is talk of our country enjoying life and pleasure akin to the roaring 1920s, but we should not miss some of the recent blinking red warning signs that could make the future look something closer to the dark ages.
In the past month alone, cyber attacks originating in Russia have targeted our critical gas pipelines, our food supply, and transit systems in New York City and the ferries to Nantucket and the Vineyard. These attacks are escalating in frequency and severity. Most experts agree that the U.S. is “lucky” that a 9/11-style cyber attack has not been launched on our banking systems, internet capabilities, or other critical infrastructure. Most alarming was U.S. Secretary Jennifer Granholm’s response to a question regarding foreign cyber attackers’ ability to take down the U.S. power grid, when she bluntly answered “Yeah. They do.”
As technology improves and is increasingly part of everything we do, it has also created vulnerabilities from personal privacy to international relationships. This is nothing new in evolution. First came the spear, then came the shield — the only difference is that sometimes it is harder to see the need for the shield when the spears are invisible. And there is growing concern that we as a nation may be one step behind instead of one step ahead.
Domestically we need better readiness and investments in training and processes. Senator Maggie Hassan has been a leading voice in sounding the alarm for a more comprehensive cyber defense. As chair of the Emerging Threats subcommittee within the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, Senator Hassan has enabled the Department of Homeland Security to better identify cyber threats through the DHS Data Framework Act. As the threats grow, so too should be our defensive actions.
We should arm the Small Business Administration with resources that incentivize purchasing cybersecurity products and ramping up training, possibly a loan program for cyber with a scalable forgiveness provision. Additionally, the federal government should create the highest standards of cyber security, including mandating manual backup systems for any sector deemed critical to our energy, food supply, and medical systems.
If we are raising and educating the youngest generation on iPads and Zooms, we should be teaching them good personal cyber health practices that ensure their privacy and instill an awareness which will eventually protect industry.
On the international stage, we simply cannot legislate our way out of these issues. We must confront the handful of global actors who are undertaking these cyber attacks. In Putin’s Russia, cyber criminals have been incorporated into state-sponsored attacks as even the central planning communists have figured out how to decentralize and weaponize cyber capabilities. President Vladimir Putin’s brazen hostilities on our own soil and aggression with his neighboring countries must be met with courage and leadership.
This is exactly why U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen recently traveled to Russia’s back door and met with young struggling countries and opposition groups that face Russian threats on the front lines. Her brave leadership must be followed up with more support for our new partnerships in Eastern Europe. In addition to enhancements in regional cyber security, we must continue bilateral military support, expand business relationships, and deepen the people to people ties in culture and education.
As President Biden prepares to meet face to face with President Putin, there is an opportunity for him to confront these cyber attacks and demand that they cease before more damage is done domestically and in retaliatory response. President Joe Biden needs to show leadership for our national security, our cyber security, and for the security of the Eastern European countries that neighbor Russia.
There are better days ahead but only if we work to make them possible. Our country must take the necessary steps here and abroad, and make the necessary investments today to ensure our peaceful existence for tomorrow.