This month, Sen. Mike Rounds introduced a bill that requires the government to define the elements of a cyber-attack that constitute an “Act of War” against the United States. He, and many others want to know: Would we go to war if one city’s electrical grid was shut down for a week? Would we go to war if our Air Traffic Control system was hacked? When is hacking an attack? This is a worthy discussion and Sen. Rounds is right to ask that cyber-attacks constituting an “act of war” be formally documented and defined, but his legislation deals with after-the-fact responses versus being proactive to prevent an attack.
Another bill, one co-sponsored by Sen. Feinstein requires that encryption providers, like Apple, provide a back-door to law enforcement to assist in their after-the-fact investigations. Many people in government appear to be content to deal with attacks from a forensic point of view after an attack, wanting an additional investigative tool while seeming not to realize the devastating consequences for the rest of us. Virtually all privacy advocates and technology experts oppose the Feinstein bill since a law that requires that the government have access to our cell phones, computers and internet activities is an outrageous overreach of government power. The Feinstein bill is also a national security catastrophe.
Supporters claim that back-door access for the government will help in terror investigations. It may, but a long list of national security experts from the security and intelligence communities oppose the Feinstein bill on national security grounds because it will do vastly more harm than good.
The way to stop cyber-attacks on our country (and against you and I personally) is to have strong encryption of both the devices we use and our information in transit across the internet. Strong encryption is the cornerstone of any sensible cybersecurity policy. If enemy forces cannot get access to the control systems of our critical infrastructure or our sensitive trade secrets, then a successful attack will not occur. This should be the focus on Senator Rounds’ cyber bill and Feinstein’s encryption bill. We need legislation that is proactive and focused on preventing cyber-attacks against our critical infrastructure as well as our personal data.
A Defense News Poll showed that cyber warfare is a bigger threat to the United States than terrorism. It’s time to take this threat seriously, be proactive, and elect representatives who understand the complexity of cyber security and can ensure the right kind of legislation is passed to prevent a cyber-attack and protect our privacy.
- Casey Lucius is a candidate for Congress and former intelligence officer and national security professor.
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