News From Terre Haute, Indiana

Opinion

June 24, 2014

Flashpoint: Address growing cyber threats

Over the past several months, we have seen firsthand that threats to our nation’s cyber security are real and growing.

Indiana University announced in February that the names, addresses and Social Security numbers of approximately 146,000 students and recent graduates were potentially exposed due to a cyber security breach. Public universities in Maryland and Virginia have been recent targets of similar attacks.

Hundreds of thousands and potentially millions of Hoosiers were affected by the single greatest corporate hack in American history — the December cyber attacks on Target customers. It is estimated that the financial and identity security of 70 million to 110 million Target shoppers was compromised.

AOL’s 120 million users and eBay’s 148 million active accounts were hit in April and May, respectively, demonstrating that even pioneers of the Internet era are not immune to harm.

Given this ever-growing threat, it is imperative that Congress renew its commitment to cyber security legislation that protects our economy and Indiana businesses. In addition to the deletion or illegal sharing of data, cyber attacks can affect critical infrastructure, like our electric grid or water treatment plants. This is a bipartisan issue that affects all Americans and the future of our country.

After Sept. 11, 2001, we broke down the barriers to information sharing and provided our intelligence and law enforcement professionals with the tools they need to keep us safe. Today, we must break down similar barriers that exist in cyber security to respond to the increasing number of attacks against private companies and the federal government.

Neither industry nor government alone can address this problem. Our nation’s vulnerability requires all stakeholders to work together to develop an enduring solution that removes barriers to information-sharing and protects our critical networks.

Upon my return to the Senate, I joined with other leaders of the key congressional committees to produce meaningful cyber security legislation. Our bill enhanced information sharing without creating costly layers of government bureaucracy or imposing new regulatory burdens on American businesses. It updated our criminal laws to account for growing cyber threats and enhanced research programs to protect our networks. Most importantly, our initiative struck the right balance between strengthening security and respecting the privacy rights of Americans.

I will continue to be actively involved in bipartisan efforts to iron out the political differences that exist on cyber security legislation, because immediate action is needed.

Earlier this year, when appearing before the Senate Intelligence Committee to provide the Intelligence Community’s worldwide threat assessment, James Clapper, director of National Intelligence, placed cyber security at the top of his list of threats, ahead of terrorism.

It seems there are few issues a divided Congress can agree on in an election year, but this must be one. All Hoosiers and all Americans have a stake addressing this problem.

Dan Coats is a Republican U.S. Senator in Indiana.

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