We’ve all heard the stories about the latest cybersecurity breach or hack that’s shaken up the world, but recently these types of attacks have been dubbed one of the top priorities for the United States. No longer should terrorism or weapons of mass destruction stand out as our greatest threats, because at the Senate Intelligence Committee’s annual ‘Worldwide Threats’ hearing, the Director of National Intelligence, Dan Coats, regarded cybersecurity as his ‘greatest concern’. “From US businesses to the federal government to state and local governments, the United States is threatened by cyber attacks every day,” said Coats.
Cybersecurity isn’t any new worry for our country. Back in December, a new national security strategy document that described cybersecurity as a top priority was issued by President Donald Trump. In this document, it cited hacks from places like Russia, China and Iran. The reasoning for this comes after a long year of cyber attacks including the WannaCry ransomware attack, the revelations of Russian misinformation campaigns waged through social media, and general hacking of critical infrastructure.
Coats wasn’t the only one to speak out for a greater emphasis on cybersecurity. Sen. Mark Warner, the committee’s vice chairman, spoke on the spreading of propaganda through popular social media sites like Facebook, Google, and Twitter by the Russians. Warner says that, “This campaign of innuendo and misinformation should alarm us all,” and that it’s, “a dangerous trend.” FBI Director Christopher Wray says that social media companies are getting better at taking down propaganda posts, but it still needs to improve. Adding that they hope the government can help work with them so they can eventually police themselves better.
With most of our lives incorporating the internet in some way, it’s not hard to grasp the threat that a weak cyber defence can pose to the stability of the nation. So it’s not a surprise when someone like Bill Gates comes out with a statement regarding cybersecurity, too. He recently said, “There’s always the question how much technology is empowering a small group of people to cause damage. A small group can have an impact — in the case of nuclear [weapons], on millions; and in the case of bio[terror], on billions. That is scary to me.” But it’s not like there is an easy solution to solving this problem. Sen. Richard Burr, the committee’s chairman, said “Cyber is clearly the most challenging threat vector this country faces. It’s also one of the most concerning, given how many aspects of our daily lives can be disrupted by a well-planned, well-executed cyberattack.”
We are left off worrying about how our lives can be so easily effected, but that’s not even the worst part. With technology changing everyday and attackers discovering newer and better ways to exploit our vulnerabilities, it leaves our defensive line on the back foot and having to constantly catch back up. The problems are only going to get more and more challenging, but we are on the right track towards a safer future, because the first step in solving a problem of this scale is to identify it.