Politics

A Marshall Plan for Cyber Defense


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The Republican Party is facing an existential crisis. Will their traditional base of small-government, low-tax party members endure, especially as they come under increasing attacks from, anti-immigrant, anti-science MAGA fundamentalists?

Democrats face challenges of their own trying to figure out how to weave together moderate Biden Democrats with a new generation of democratic socialists. One way to become “the party of the future” is to articulate a clear plan for solving the problems of the future. Here is one clear opportunity.


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Both the Trump and the Biden administrations approved multibillion-dollar pandemic stimulus programs. Despite the gravity of the COVID-19 economic crisis, half of the government stimulus did not get to the working Americans who desperately needed help. Much was stolen by fraudsters and criminal rings who exploited online claims. Made worse, 70% of the stolen funds went abroad to Russia, China and Nigeria.

California State Auditor Elaine Howle warned as much last August and announced in a January report that the Employment Development Department (EDD) had sent 555,000 claims to 26,000 suspect addresses — an average of 21 per address — despite the evidence of fraudulent activity. One address had more than 80 claims, and yet EDD’s automated tool missed 12 as late as in December 2020. Howle also noted that a disturbing number of claims went to people currently incarcerated in California prisons.

This begs the question: How long will taxpayers support government programs only to learn that the money ended up in the hands of criminals? This is how we stop it.

Every FBI or Drug Enforcement Administration office has a special agent in charge (SAC) to coordinate efforts in combatting criminal threats. We need state-based SACs for cybersecurity to assist state and local governments, prevent fraud and direct funding for state task forces as we already do for counterterrorism.

Under the authority of the secretary of homeland security, chief security officers in each state would provide a full conduit of information to all levels of government to intercept criminals. Besides preventing fraud, they could play a valuable role in helping local governments encrypt both voter rolls and votes as well as portect against ransomware attacks.

Governments in general also need more cyber experts. Cyber gangs have upped the ante, going so far as to examine companies’ cyber insurance policies before activating ransomware as experts believe was done in the most recent Kaseya hack. We need to raise the bar to intercept these bad actors before they reach private citizens or entities. A Marshall Plan for cyber hiring across all government would put us on stronger footing to combat increasingly aggressive behavior by state-supported crime syndicates.

Lastly, we need to measure how we are doing. We need to require that states publicly account for the share of unemployment benefits that get into the right hands. Obviously, not every malicious individual can be caught. By spotlighting our efficacy, we can highlight the problem, heighten demand and recruit more people with the tech backgrounds we need to tackle fraud.

As a lifelong Democrat, I believe in the power of a strong government that provides a social safety net to protect its citizens. The answer is not less government or pretending there will not be more tech-based attacks on our citizens and businesses. The answer is for government to demonstrate it can proactively provide solutions to stop the problem and provide accountability.

We need a government that is technologically capable enough to protect our people and smart enough to get the money to those who need it most. Whichever party shows it understands the future by solving new problems like cybersecurity will be in the pole position to win in 2022 and beyond.

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Fair Observer’s editorial policy.



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