Hurd on the Hill: Cybersecurity Awareness Month
October marks Cybersecurity Awareness Month, an opportunity to recognize the increasing importance of digital security and to share best practices for keeping our digital information safe. As we continue to become more dependent on computers, automation and digital data storage, every aspect of our lives – from personal banking information to private health records to our credit records – is vulnerable to hacks. Government, private-sector and individuals have a long way to go to implement basic cyber hygiene, but the first step towards achieving this goal is having an awareness of the problem. While October is devoted to spreading cyber awareness, we have to protect our systems all year long.
One of the things that make major hacks so frustrating is that many could have been prevented with simple cyber hygiene basics like installing regular software updates and utilizing a complex login password (something other than ‘password’ or ‘12345678’). For individuals, the easiest way to protect your digital information is by having different, strong passwords for each platform – using numbers, letters and special characters. It seems simple, but it is alarming how many folks have their personal information compromised due to failure to implement this easy step.
As a graduate of Texas A&M University in Computer Science, a former cybersecurity entrepreneur and current Chair of the House IT Subcommittee, one of my highest policy priorities in Congress is defending our digital infrastructure. As a Chairman I’ve been able to explore ways to better protect our digital infrastructure and I continue to work with my colleagues across the aisle to advocate for policy solutions that drive innovation. One of these solutions is our Smart Government bill called the Modernizing Government Technology (MGT) Act. This major IT Reform package is designed to strengthen information security by accelerating the federal government’s transition to modern technology like cloud computing. The federal government spends $90 billion a year on purchasing technology and software and 75% of this money is spent on maintaining old, outdated systems. Our government needs to be able to introduce cutting-edge technology into their networks to improve operational efficiency and decrease cost. The MGT Act does just that, and I am proud that it has passed in both the House and the Senate, and is merely days away from becoming law.
My next initiative is championing the development of a Cyber National Guard. The premise behind this idea is relatively simple: If a student wants to pursue a college degree in computer science, the U.S. Government will pay for it, but they have to agree to work for the federal government for a number of years after they graduate. Once they complete their term of service in the government and have moved onto the private-sector, they will still rotate back into the federal government for the proverbial two weeks per year in a capacity that would closely resemble that of a reservist. A Cyber National Guard would ensure a pipeline of quality talent into the federal government and maintain our world leadership in the digital realm by ensuring a regular exchange of talent between the public and private sectors.
The security that Americans enjoy today will not last if we don’t continue to discover the latest ground-breaking technology, engineer the most advanced weaponry and protect our cyber infrastructure from attacks. The United States must continue to invest in cutting-edge research, encourage private-sector technology development and educate future generations of scientists, technologists, engineers and mathematicians. And the importance of cybersecurity cannot be overstated.