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Nation’s fight against cyber intruders goes local
PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) - The next frontier in the fight to keep crucial electronic networks safe from harm will play out as close to home as Town Hall and require more involvement from private industry, which controls 85 percent of the infrastructure, experts say.
An explosion in threats against the nation’s cyber networks has led the Pentagon to develop a cyber war strategy and states to open cyber security offices.
The Pentagon revealed last week that it sustained, earlier this year, one of its largest-ever losses of sensitive data in a cyberattack by an unnamed foreign government. Deputy Secretary of Defense William Lynch disclosed the theft of 24,000 files while outlining the military’s new cyber war strategy.
“What keeps me up at night is just that we have so much more work to do,” said Michael Kaiser, executive director of the National Cyber Security Alliance. “We have to figure out how to work together or we’ll never achieve cyber security.”
At his confirmation hearing last month, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta told senators America’s next great battle will likely entail cyber warfare.
“The next Pearl Harbor we confront could very well be a cyberattack that cripples our power systems, our grid, our security systems, our financial systems, our governmental systems,” Panetta said. He has said that cyber security will be a key focus of his Pentagon tenure.
A report by Verizon, the U.S. Secret Service and Dutch High Tech Crime Unit found the number of records compromised in data breaches fell to 4 million last year from 144 million in 2009 and a whopping 361 million in 2008.
The report’s authors say the decline in data loss is tied to a decrease in large-scale data breaches.
Cyber security giant Symantec says it recorded more than 3 billion malware attacks last year.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation on Tuesday arrested 14 people in nine states and the District of Columbia on charges out of California that they hacked into PayPal’s web site last December as part of the group “Anonymous,” according to the U.S. Department of Justice.
Investigators say the hackers targeted PayPal after the online service suspended WikiLeak’s account in the wake of the release of classified U.S. State Department cables. Prosecutors allege the cyberattack unleashed by the “Anonymous” group rendered PayPal inaccessible for users. They say the group dubbed the assault “Operation Avenge Assange,” a reference to WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.
Other recent high-profile victims of cyberattacks include the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Sony, Citigroup, the International Monetary Fund, the Gmail accounts of high-ranking U.S. officials and the computer security company RSA, which sells devices used to protect computer systems. Also lurking are computer viruses and worms that have the potential to overtake systems controlling pipelines, water systems, nuclear power plants and other facilities.
Rhode Island officials highlighted the need for cooperation from the private sector when it unveiled its new Cyber Disruption Team. The July 11 announcement took place at the Providence offices of Dell SecureWorks, which services customers in the financial services, utilities, health care, retail and government industries. The team, with representatives from law enforcement, academia and Dell SecureWorks, aims to prevent and respond to cyber security events and defend the state’s cyber infrastructure.
“That public-private partnership is absolutely critical,” said U.S. Rep. Jim Langevin, D-RI, who is co-founder of the Congressional Cybersecurity Caucus.
At the same time, combatting cyber security is getting more local, Kaiser said. The Washtenaw County Cyber Citizenship Coalition in Michigan and Cyber City USA in San Antonio, Texas are two such examples.
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