- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 23, 2020

In an acknowledgment that the federal government doesn’t know how to stop cybercriminals from stealing billions of dollars from U.S. companies, two senators are pushing a plan to force Washington to listen to outside experts.

The bipartisan legislation by Sens. David Perdue, Georgia Republican, and Kyrsten Sinema, Arizona Democrat, would create a new advisory committee of cybersecurity professionals from various industries and state and local governments to work with the Department of Homeland Security and the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency.

The need for new tactics became stunningly obvious as American businesses suffered from massive cyberattacks during the coronavirus shutdowns.

“Our adversaries are getting smarter and more sophisticated every day, and we have to be ready to respond at any moment,” Mr. Perdue said. “This advisory committee will provide critical insight into the cyber threat environment and develop best practices for deterrence and detection.”

The advisory committee would have access to classified information and aim to address issues involving risk management, public and private partnerships, critical infrastructure, and information exchange among other issues.

Its members would be selected from a range of industries including media and entertainment, chemicals, education, defense, financial services, health care, and information technology as well as other private industry sectors, according to the legislation.

Mr. Perdue pointed to Fort Gordon, near Augusta, Georgia, as a model of partnerships between academia, business, and the military that he said needs to be replicated at the federal level to prevent cyberattacks.

The decision to rethink America’s cybersecurity strategy comes amid an uptick in cybercrime nationwide attributable to malicious hackers and foreign nations such as China. The FBI said in April that complaints of cybercrime tripled since the start of the coronavirus outbreak, and in the ensuing months the situation has gotten worse.

The Texas judicial system fell victim to a ransomware attack in May, automaker Honda’s production capabilities were diminished by a cyberattack in June, and the hacktivist group Distributed Denial of Secrets published a “BlueLeaks” archive of sensitive police files online last week.

On Tuesday, Florida Atlantic University published research showing cybercrime involving extortion, government impersonation, and spoofing increased sharply in 2019 and cost Americans billions of dollars. California leads the nation in the number of victims and fraud victim losses, according to FAU, which said the Golden State saw victim losses of $573.6 million in 2019, a 27% increase over the previous year.

“Fraudsters are getting more efficient at going after where the money is,” said Michael Crain, FAU Center for Forensic Accounting director, in a statement. “There doesn’t seem to be any mitigation of the growing trend of online crime.”

Mr. Crain said the first line of defense needs to be user awareness, not a tech solution or law enforcement action, and he called on governments and institutions to sound the alarm.

From her perch on the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, Ms. Sinema said she intends to do just that.

“Arizona leads the way in innovation, and establishing a cybersecurity advisory committee will keep everyday Americans safe from cyberattacks so we can continue to innovate and thrive,” Ms. Sinema said.

• Ryan Lovelace can be reached at rlovelace@washingtontimes.com.

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