Why Homeland Security should be worried about cyber attacks

Hackers with cyber skills and a host of other “gray hats” are one step closer to being able to tap into the nation’s top-secret cyber infrastructure. There could be a cyber bubble there.

These cyber “experts” are in the midst of the most serious cyber threat to U.S. national security in a decade, the top counterintelligence official at the National Security Agency (NSA) tells The Washington Post. The demand for skilled cyber security professionals is “now at what is really for the NSA the next significant point,” according to William Stein, director of NSA’s Threat Operations Center, in an interview with the Post published on Friday. “I don’t know where this demand will ultimately settle. We’re never completely on top of it, but I don’t see that we’re in a place where it’s less urgent or less problematic.”

This information may be alarming, but we are now at a critical juncture in cybersecurity. The threat is pervasive and the systems we use everyday are at risk.

Every major threat facing America, from physical attacks on national infrastructure to biological or nuclear-related catastrophes, could come from outside the country. These global threats could be exacerbated by the nonstop creation of new sources of malware, new ways to compromise protected systems, and more methods for data theft.

So with these grave threats, what do you do?

As a critical infrastructure asset protection regulator, my focus is on protecting the nation’s critical infrastructure from cyber threats.

The kinds of cybersecurity regulations that typically need to be in place to protect critical infrastructure from cyber threats are lacking, according to the Post article. This lack of a robust, well-defined framework is a critical weakness.

“You have this situation where … 20 percent of the government agencies report to Congress that we are concerned about cyber theft, not espionage, but cyber theft. But only 3 percent of federal employees have security clearances,” said Andrew Card, an NSA cyber analyst who helped author the new National Security Strategy in 2010, which addresses cyber attacks as one of four areas of focus for the United States.

An election day cyber attack could affect everyone: From the press corps to political volunteers and backers on the campaign trail, election data would be at risk. Even our nation’s most critical infrastructure — electrical grids, the financial systems — could potentially fail, severely damaging an economy and disrupting daily life.

So when you are making important decisions about your life and your financial security, make sure you are, as the creator of this blog puts it, “all wired up.”

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