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Overview

The safety and strength of our nation’s cyber‐infrastructure is a concern for most Americans, whether it’s about their own personal data being taken without their permission or rogue nations hacking into our government’s systems. Hardly a day goes by where there is not a story in the news about how “cybersecurity” should be a top priority for the nation.

Cybersecurity – What is it?

The term cybersecurity refers to the protection of all types of technologies from either attack or manipulation from unwanted sources. This term is used broadly to cover technologies we use everyday, such as smart phones, personal computers, credit cards and other personal data, to large and complex computer systems used by industry and government. Also, increasingly the term refers to protecting “smart technologies” that are becoming more and more ubiquitous in our lives, be it in cars or our houses.

What are some of the threats?

There are constantly new and complex cyber-threats developing. Even as you read this sentence, new ones have likely developed. However, several common themes should be noted:

  • Personal data: Half of all adult Americans, some 110 million people, claim that they have experienced some sort of breach of their personal data. This includes stolen credit cards, social security and bank account information, as well as passwords. Hackers get this information from “malware” that some individuals mistakenly enable from links in emails and on websites, or from hacking into major corporate or government computer systems.
  • Industry systems: It is estimated that the average U.S. business deals with 10,000 security alerts per day, so they have to work consistently to ensure the security of their customers’ personal data. Hackers also look to gain other information, such as industry secrets on product development and strategy, which hurts a company’s ability to innovate and protect its intellectual property. According to a Lloyds of London Report, cyber-attacks cost businesses $400 billion every year.
  • Major infrastructure: The safety of the country’s major infrastructure system is of particular concern. The electrical grid, aviation and other transportation systems, as well as the financial system – from Wall Street to the average ATM – are constantly at risk of cyber-attack.
  • Cyber-warfare: Many experts believe the new Cold War is essentially a cyber-war. Most recently, they site the alleged hacks by Russia of the Democratic National Committee’s email system, whereby the Russians are being accused of trying to influence the U.S. presidential election. Experts assert this is but one example of foreign countries’ efforts to garner top-secret information through hacking – the modern form of espionage.
  • Other concerns: More recently, experts are increasingly concerned about hackers’ success in using social media platforms to identify victims, since individuals are more likely to click on a link if received from a friend. Also, there is increased attention being paid to automobiles as new technologies that utilize Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and other computer systems, are being used by manufacturers to make vehicles safer and more efficient.

Who are the hackers?

For a lot of people, the term “hacker” conjures images of a smart computer geek working furiously to break into systems and steal information. In reality, while those people do exist, it has turned into a much more established, organized and multi-faceted network. In fact, hackers often work in groups that are organized like any other business. Their activities range from stealing private information and selling it on the black market to developing programs they then sell to other hackers who use them to illegally collect information or break into other networks. Governments also employ professional hackers for intelligence work.

Cybersecurity as an Industry

It is estimated the global cybersecurity market will be worth $170 billion by 2020, as governments and industry look for ways to protect themselves. Given the severity of this threat, the dangerously low number of workers trained to work in cybersecurity is particularly alarming. There are over 1 million cybersecurity jobs unfilled around the world, with many firms saying the employees they have are not adequately qualified. Similarly, firms state that the educational pipeline is thin and more needs to be done to shore up a robust workforce.

Public Policy Measures

In December 2015, President Obama signed the Cybersecurity Act of 2015. One major issue many site is that better information sharing between the government, industry and other affected parties is needed. This bill creates a voluntary cybersecurity information sharing process that works to stimulate cooperation between business and government. Also, the White House developed a Cybersecurity National Action Plan (CNAP) in February. CNAP established a bipartisan Commission on Enhancing National Cybersecurity, proposed $3.1 billion in an Information Technology Modernization Fund to replace older IT, and created the position of a Federal Chief Information Officer for the federal government.

Cybersecurity is developing into one of the biggest threats to our daily lives and our national security, and in a fast and ever-changing world, the government and public policy leaders are making this issue a top priority.

Key Facts

  • Half of all adult Americans, some 110 million people, claim that they have experienced some sort of breach of their personal data.
  • According to a Lloyds of London Report, cyber-attacks cost businesses $400 billion every year.
  • It is estimated the global cybersecurity market will be worth $170 billion by 2020, as governments and industry look for ways to protect themselves.
  • There are over 1 million cybersecurity jobs unfilled around the world.

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