In terms of pure necessity, there are few types of federal employees more valuable to the security of the United States than our cyber personnel.
During the recent, record setting government shutdown, over 400,000 employees of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) were furloughed during a time where there were already over 350,000 open and unmanned IT and security jobs in the US.
The lack of coverage has some in the Senate wondering whether we are teetering towards a different kind of “state of emergency.”
Last week, five Senate Democrats, Amy Klobuchar (Minnesota), Ed Markey (Massachusetts), Tom Udall (New Mexico), Catherine Cortez Masto (Nevada) and Cory Booker (New Jersey) forwarded a letter to Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen and National Security Agency (NSA) Director Gen. Paul Nakasone, requesting that the Trump administration explain how furloughs disrupted efforts to defend federal computer systems from hacking attempts.
This was certainly a reasonable request from the senators.
Although America is facing an immediate crisis at our southern border with the caravan and migrant mess, the constant and evolving digital threat deserves the executive branch’s focused attention.
I’ve written at length regarding the dangers of hacks against the United States.
Our infrastructure has been penetrated, our military has been victimized and the private sector has paid billions in damages as a result of foreign cyber-attacks.
For some of America’s enemies, especially those at a militaristic disadvantage, the only way to level any significant attack against America is via hacking campaigns. Countries like Iran, China and North Korea, that have consistently been a thorn to America’s side, are projected to up their efforts in 2019.
Currently, we are watching a controversy play out involving Iran, Canada, the United States and China, over the violation of sanctions related to China’s Huawei Technologies exploiting of the US banking system to facilitate the sale of hardware that can be used for spying to the dangerously unhinged Iranian regime.
Hackers from China, Iran, North Korea and other regions have had their hand in efforts to create aggressive malware campaigns for both personal gains, and to disrupt government entities around the world. Ransomware, a threat that doesn’t necessarily choose its target, infiltrates personal computers, systems belonging to governments and even computers within large corporations.
The infection then encrypts files and holds them hostage until a ransom payment is made. These threats have roiled computers belonging to government agencies and individuals and businesses in the private sector. The role of government agencies to help protect both critical infrastructure and military assets from ransomware and other emerging threats has never been as crucial as it is now.
Key to the federal government's efforts to protect Americans is the seamless implementation of the recently created According to CISA’s website, the agency was created to lead "the national effort to defend critical infrastructure against the threats of today, while working with partners across all levels of government and in the private sector to secure against the evolving risks of tomorrow."
The possibility of another government shutdown in a week is enough to have opportunistic and enterprising hackers, as well as enemy governments, circling Feb. 15 on their calendars.
This is why it is imperative that the Trump Whitehouse makes the critically strategic decision to empower and influence agencies like DHS and CISA to designate their cyber employees as "essential personnel."
In addition to keeping the country safer, this designation will help keep employee retention higher for government agencies that have to compete with the more lucrative offers for skilled personnel in the private sector.
Technological advances in our modern world dictate that our cyber defenses should be viewed in the same vein as our military defenses. This shift in philosophy may one day save America from catastrophic disaster.
Julio Rivera is a small business consultant, political activist, writer and Editorial Director for Reactionary Times. He has been a regular contributor to questsin TV and columnist for questsin.net since 2016. His writing, which is concentrated on politics, cybersecurity and sports, has also been published by websites including The Hill, The Washington Times, LifeZette, The Washington Examiner, American Thinker, The Toronto Sun and PJ Media and many others. For more of his reports, Go Here Now.