The U.S. government must take immediate steps to prevent foreign criminals and other enemies from hacking the computer systems that support the nation’s critical infrastructure.
Americans should brace themselves for the costs of doing so. It won’t be easy, and it won’t be cheap.
The U.S. should approach the problem as though it is going to war, which it is. It’s a 21st-century variation of war—quiet, yet destructive and potentially lethal.
Foreign hackers have assaulted the United States at least three times in major incidents since December.
The first assault came when hackers broke into the computer networks of government agencies and Fortune 500 companies through third-party software.
Hackers reportedly installed a backdoor into software manufactured by SolarWinds Corp. and used widely in the U.S. It allowed cybercriminals to infiltrate agency computers including those at the departments of State, Treasury, Homeland Security, Commerce and Energy.
The hack put national security and public safety front and center. The extent of the damage is still unknown.
In the second attack, hackers shut down the Colonial Pipeline that serves the Eastern Seaboard and left drivers scrambling to find gas. Hackers held the pipeline hostage and released it only after its corporate owners paid nearly $5 million in ransom.
The third attack came last week when the North American subsidiary of JBS SA, the world’s largest meat producer, was hit by a ransomware attack that shut down 20% of the nation’s meat production.
The Russian government or Russia-based groups are suspected to have executed these attacks.
When Japan sank much of the U.S. Pacific Fleet in Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, the act sparked America’s entrance into World War II along with the fastest ship and plane construction that the world had ever seen.
America needs to muster the same kind of speed and determination to quickly develop strategies and systems to repel, prevent and punish cyberattacks.
When historians look back on today’s issues, they will remark on the fact that America entered the computer age wearing rose-colored glasses, beguiled by the internet’s ability to share pictures of cute cats and to speed up mail and messages.
The hackers ripped off the rose-colored glasses, but too many Americans remain unaware of how much their daily lives depend on fragile computer code.
America has to get to work and devise ways to repel attacks and make their sponsors pay a steep price.
Otherwise, America will be a sitting duck for the next cyber-salvo and a victim of any destruction hackers wish to visit upon it.
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