Government unaware of cyber attacks, seeking solution

The need for better cybersecurity measures across the public and private sectors is apparent to many citizens and federal employees. With recent data breaches occurring on the small scale such as Apple's iCloud and on a larger level with the Home Depot intrusion that resulted in 56 million credit card numbers being stolen, The Wall Street Journal reported, measures need to be taken that reduce the vulnerabilities in networks.

The problem
Recent testimony from the nation's top cybersecurity experts in front of the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs demonstrated that cybersecurity is severely lacking. NextGov reported that Suzanne Spaulding, undersecretary of the Department of Homeland Security's National Protection and Programs Directorate, told lawmakers that the government has responded to more than 600,000 cyber incidents this year, issuing 10,000 actionable alerts and deploying on-site teams 78 times.

While many of these cyber threats are in the commercial sector, the government is just as vulnerable. When questioned about the number of attacks on agencies, Robert Anderson, executive assistant director for the Federal Bureau of Investigation's Criminal, Cyber, Response and Services branch, said that any area of the government that has not been hacked actually has been and no one has discovered it yet, NextGov reported.

"The bottom line is, we're losing a lot of data, money and innovation," Anderson explained.

The lack of knowledge is holding back federal IT departments' ability to properly address cybersecurity threats that are only increasing in abundance. Furthermore, the attacks are dangerous to national security. If some hacks are left undiscovered, other government agencies will not be capable of stopping threats as they do not know which information is being stolen and shared.

The solution
Many officials testified that it is vital to collaborate with businesses in the private sector that specialize in data management, reported NextGov. While the government is trying to keep up with current technologies such as cloud computing, some enterprises are already on the cutting edge of cybersecurity. Innovations are being created every day, and many professionals in the industry have the knowledge necessary to increase security and reduce threats in the private and public sectors.

Another solution to the ongoing cyber threats would be updated laws. This will give federal agencies and law enforcement the support necessary to deter digital crimes. The DHS will need the help of Congress to make this a reality, according to Jeh C. Johnson, secretary of Homeland Security, who wrote an editorial post for The Hill. Existing legislation is unclear on the DHS's role in cybersecurity and in the private sector, many enterprises are not reporting data breaches and attacks on their systems in order to avoid the negative publicity and possible fines. This only causes more worry for the government as there can be large threats it is unaware of.

Passing legislation remains only half of the solution as identifying the number of attacks, who performs them and the information accessed will be crucial to stopping future hacks and attempts. Laws and regulations combined with private sector security might be the government's only hope to reduce the number of cyber threats.