Cardin: ‘We’ve got to do a better job’ addressing cyber-security issues

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Computer security has become an “increasingly important part of our national debate,” U.S. Senator Benjamin L. Cardin told more than 90 Greater Baltimore Committee members who attended an April 22 GBC’s cyber security workshop in Baltimore.

In recent hearings of the Senate’s subcommittee on Terrorism and Homeland Security, which Cardin chairs, experts revealed that in the United States we protect ourselves from about 80 percent of the cyber attacks against America.

“That means 20 percent are getting through. That’s unacceptable” said Cardin. “We’ve got to do a lot better job.”

Cardin’s address launched a GBC morning workshop that reviewed the nature of cyber security threats and Maryland’s potential role at the “epicenter” of the nation’s efforts to address them.

GBC president and CEO Donald C. Fry said he has gained a “new appreciation” of cyber threats to the nation and to Maryland’s private sector.

“As business leaders, when we think of the consequences that could occur, it’s certainly an area that we need to pay a lot more attention to,” Fry said.

Cyber experts who presented at the workshop recommended that the GBC and Maryland’s business community support the creation of a state “computer emergency response team.”

A so-called “CERT,” which now can be found only at the national level and in a few states, would assess cyber threats to Maryland businesses and government and develop a coordinated approach to mitigating them, said Stan Nolen, cyber and critical infrastructure lead at Varen Technologies.

“If Maryland is going to be the cyber center of excellence, than we’d better have our act together in protecting our own industries,” said Nolen.

Dr. Bill Anderson, CEO and founder of Oculis Labs, noted that a cyber attack on your company and personal information can occur not just directly on computers and office networks, but also on mobile phones and by professionals doing something as simple as looking over your shoulder while you work on your laptop or IPhone in an airport.

Maryland is ideally suited for the role as the nation’s cyber security center, said Christian Johansson, secretary of the Maryland Department of Business and Economic Development.

We have the “ecosystem of talent” and of companies, federal facilities and universities already in the state, he said. “Anybody who’s involved in defending this country from cyber attacks, or is a heavy user of some of the products on the federal side, they’re all here.”

Of the 11,300 jobs created in the U.S. last year in computer systems design and related services, 5,300 – or 47 percent – were created here in Maryland, making Maryland first in the nation “by a landslide” in this type of job creation, Johansson reported.

The new U.S. Cyber Command is expected to be headquartered at Ft. Meade, putting Maryland squarely in the middle of an emerging national effort to address cyber security issues.

Previously, there has not been a point person in the federal executive branch responsible for cyber security. That deficiency will soon be addressed as Congress is now considering the nomination of NSA Director Lt. General Keith Alexander to head up the new U.S. Cyber Command, Cardin noted.

“We are literally talking about the defense of America,” he said.

Meanwhile, in the business world, “there are huge vulnerabilities in regards to cyber security” For instance, more money is stolen from banks today through cyber crimes than by bank robbers, Cardin said.

A major challenge in mounting a national defense against cyber attacks is that money is tight and Congress has limited resources because the federal budget deficit has reached “huge levels,” he said. “You can’t just throw money at cyber security issues. We’ve got to figure out how to use the money wisely.”

Another challenge is that policy makers must balance the issue of privacy with national security needs, Cardin said. They must find a way to address cyber-security challenges “in a way that protects your privacy and your civil liberties.”

Listen to Senator Ben Cardin’s speech in its entirety.

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