By Doug Kelly
Each October, National Cybersecurity Month serves as a critical reminder about the growing persistence and sophistication of cyber threats to every aspect of American society. In the first half of 2022, there were more than 817 reported data breaches in the United States alone. Unfortunately, cyberattacks are only expected to increase, with global costs from cybercrime expected to hit $10.5 trillion annually by 2025.
In today’s digital world, the operations of everything from critical infrastructure to local governments rely on some type of online platform that could be vulnerable. That’s why it is more imperative than ever that federal, state, and local governments prioritize smart policies and partnerships that bolster cybersecurity protections and capabilities.Increasingly, we’re seeing nefarious actors from authoritarian regimes, namely China and Russia, deploy cyberattacks in an effort to undermine our national and economic security. Just this month, a hacking group from Russia launched an attack on U.S. airport websites. Fortunately, the attacks did not have any serious impact, but this shows the lengths adversaries will go to disrupt vital institutions, or worse, cause harm to our citizens.
As China’s technological influence continues to grow, many in the U.S. intelligence community are expressing serious concerns, with the Director of National Intelligence saying, “China presents a prolific and effective cyber-espionage threat, possesses substantial cyber-attack capabilities, and presents a growing influence threat.”
Equally concerning, a new report details how China deploys cyberattacks as a means of aggression and outlines the threats these attacks pose to U.S. national security. The report found, “China is capable of cyber-enabled espionage, influence operations, and cyberattacks that can cause disruption and destruction.”
Our allies across the Atlantic share similar sentiment. On the heels of polling that found nearly 90 percent of U.S. and European voters believe China and Russia’s technological ambitions threaten their country’s national security, the head of Britain’s cyber-intelligence agency stated China’s use of technology has become a “battlefield for control, for values and for influence.”
While China and Russia increase their partnership and cooperation, the United States must fortify our partnerships with our allies and our private sector domestic innovators to build and deploy technologies that can better protect our economic and national security networks.
Unlike in China and Russia, American technology creates ladders of economic opportunity, protects our citizens, defends our allies, and guards us against cyberattacks. It also articulates our principles of freedom, expression, and association, and empowers millions of citizens around the world to make their voices and heard. Furthermore, private sector investment accounts for two-thirds of U.S. research and development (R&D) spending that help us lead on cutting-edge technologies that sustain our over foreign adversaries.
Meanwhile, China and Russia utilize technology to censor political debate, monitor their people and restrict the flow of information. As we saw early in the Russia-Ukraine war, China parroted Russian state propaganda, refused to condemn Putin’s actions, launched cyberattacks against Ukraine, and was considering ways to help Russia bypass sanctions with military and economic aid. Just this week, China scrubbed from its internet any mention of a former top political leader.
Despite these alarming alliances and stark warnings from national security leaders, some in Congress are pursuing anti-innovation legislation that targets our domestic technology sector – a key player in our cyber defense strategy and national security. This misguided legislation would handcuff our leading innovators, which risks giving our adversaries an upper hand in their pursuit to become the most dominant technological powers in the world.
As Congress and the Administration continue to explore policies to strengthen cyber protections, the U.S. technology industry will be instrumental in the effort to detect and deter future cyber threats and uphold secure networks and cyber protections. The stakes are too high to hamstring our top tech innovators at a time when we need their expertise the most.