One of the most basic duties of our federal government is to protect citizens against the threat of attack from hostile foreign powers. Each year, we spend hundreds of billions to insure that our military forces have the tools they need to keep us safe from foreign invasion or attack so that we can lead out our lives in peace and pursue our happiness.
But in the 21st Century, a new threat to our citizens has arisen from hostile powers abroad. Today, foreign governments are strategically targeting Americans through cyberattacks against email and other electronically stored information systems. These foreign governments do so in order to intimidate and silence perceived enemies, influence debates over policy, and ultimately to achieve political outcomes that benefit them rather than the United States.
Unfortunately, it is doubtful that we are currently equipped to deal adequately with these threats. Just recently, the New York Times reported that Chinese-sponsored hackers were behind the disruption of information systems administered by the city of Baltimore. They shut down email and disrupted real estate sales, water bills, health alerts, and many other city services.
According to the report, these cybercriminals have been targeting other towns, cities, hospitals, airports, rail, ATMs, and university systems across the country. They have paralyzed operations, stolen personal information, and otherwise wreaked havoc. This is just the latest in a series of state-sponsored cyberattacks targeting U.
S. companies and U.S. citizens. Back in 2014, North Korean hackers broke into computer systems at Sony Pictures and threatened the release of confidential data unless the entertainment company canceled the release of an upcoming motion picture, The Interview, critical of the North Korean regime. Sony complied with the demands.
Since 2017, North Korea has engaged in “increasingly hostile cyber activities, including theft [and] website vandalism” according to the Congressional Research Service. Government-backed hackers have reportedly conducted cyber-espionage against tens of thousands of U.S. targets, accessing computer networks and intellectual property, and raking in hundreds of millions through cyber-crime.
The same group of Russian hackers responsible for interfering in the 2016 presidential election with a cyberattack on the Democratic National Committee have reportedly gone after hotel WiFi networks and American companies like FedEx and Merck. Iranian hackers have used ransomware widely against U.
S. citizens. And late last year, National Security Advisor John Bolton verified that China had been behind the 2015 cyberattack on the Office of Personnel Management, the most extensive hack of U.S. government data in history, which entailed the theft of personal data for over 22 million people (most of them federal government employees),.