CybersecurityCall for creating a U.S. cybersecurity emergency response capability

Published 13 April 2011

Lawmakers call for the creation of a cybersecurity emergency response capability to help businesses under major cyber attacks; “Who do you call if your CIO is overwhelmed, if you’re a local bank or utility?” Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-Rhode Island) asked; “How can we preposition defenses for our critical infrastructure, since these attacks come at the speed of light?”

Representative James Langevin (D-Rhode Island), says that there are 1.8 billion attacks on U.S. government servers every month. During 2010, researchers tracked 662 data breaches at large companies or government agencies, with 16.2 million records exposed. Cyber-attacks cost the U.S. economy an estimated $8 billion a year, he said.

In addition, nine million U.S. residents are victims of identity theft each year, and cybercrime costs large businesses millions of dollars each year, Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-Rhode Island) said. Cybercriminals have stolen about $1 trillion worth of intellectual property from U.S. businesses, he added.

The two spoke during a forum on cybersecurity at the University of Rhode Island.

IDG reports that Whitehouse called for the creation of a cybersecurity emergency response capability to help businesses under major attacks. Whitehouse also called for the United States to develop “rules of the road” for Internet use. While unsafe cars are not allowed on highways, no one stops unsafe computers from connecting to the Internet, he said.

General Keith Alexander, director of the U.S. National Security Agency and U.S. Cyber Command, also spoke at the event. He said that coordinated cyber-attacks could shut down the U.S. power grid, stock exchanges and the Internet, added.

Alexander was responding to an audience member who asked him what was the worst that could happen if several nations banded together to attack U.S. cyberspace. The power grid and Internet are “vulnerable,” he said. “I don’t think any nation out there right now wants to attack us, but we have these vulnerabilities, and we’ve got to address them,” Alexander added. “These are significant problems.”

IDG reports that when asked about cyberterrorism, Alexander said terrorists’ cybercapabilities are “at the lower end of the spectrum today.” Terrorists, however, could be a much stronger threat in as little as eighteen months, he said.

Langevin drew attention to the shortages in cybesecurity personnel. “All the best ideas won’t keep us secure without the right people to execute them, and our nation’s cyberworkforce is not large enough to match the scale of these threats,” he said. “Experts have estimated that the U.S. has fewer than 1,000 people with the advanced security skills to effectively compete in cyberspace, but the reality is that we need 20,000 to 30,000.”