- - Wednesday, July 15, 2015

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Katherine Archuleta’s resignation as director of the U.S. Office of Personnel Management was inevitable, even in an administration with an easy tolerance of incompetence. On her watch, hackers, probably working for the Chinese, opened doors in cyberspace enabling access to millions of confidential files of current and former government employees.

But not until the number of breached records numbered more than 20 million (and the number might go higher) could the White House decide it was time for Ms. Archuleta to make her way out the door. Nevertheless, she leaves as a scapegoat for a problem the administration has no idea how to deal with.

That government offers the usual better-late-than-never safeguards for those worried that their checking accounts may be depleted in the middle of the night, or that phony credit cards will be issued in their names. This may help some victims but it won’t recall stolen information. The leaks no doubt give the hackers an opportunity to inflict blackmail. We all have secrets that should never be put on display on the Internet, where sins go viral and the consequences for the fortunate is mere humiliation.

The nation’s cybersecurity must be rebuilt from the ground up. New people and new ideas must be brought to the job, and by all accounts this was a priority that sailed smartly over the head of Miss Archuleta. The careful and the wary could have seen this coming. “China has been going after more personal data recently,” said an analysis of the recent U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission hearing on “Commercial Cyber Espionage and Barriers to Digital Trade in China,” “but the motivation for this is not clear. It could be used for future spear phishing against specific individuals, ‘social engineering,’ identification of agents and/or simple criminal ends.”

Witnesses at a recent hearing at the commission even expressed doubts that state-backed cyber-espionage can be prevented. The Internet is a wondrous tool, but it leaks like a sieve into the hands of the savvy.

Since the record of this administration is hardly reassuring, Congress should dispatch outside experts to study the problem and come up with a way to fix it. An investigating commission should have the authority to issue subpoenas to require government employees to tell what they know, without the usual partisan political pressure.

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