When it comes to national defense, certain topics automatically register in citizens’ minds: defense spending, border control, terrorism, and the list goes on. But one significant issue has failed to gain traction in our national dialogue, even as its importance amplifies: Cybersecurity.
It’s not surprising. The general public understands, at least to some extent, the significance of natural disasters and terrorism and recession. They understand the impact of joblessness and outsourcing and censorship. By comparison, however, network security and cyber espionage are significantly less ingrained in our overall understanding.
Even so, we increasingly hear about the risks posed by a handful of unfriendly nations engaged in potentially malicious cyber endeavors. In 2015, the Government Accountability Office stated that 19 out of 24 federal agencies consider cybersecurity a significant deficiency. Indeed, the cyber landscape poses some of the greatest risks to national security that the United States currently faces—not only to our physical safety, but economically as well.
Never was this truer than today, with international corporations purchasing U.S. tech companies at an ever-increasing rate, not to mention ongoing accusations of cyber espionage against a handful of unfriendly nations. With this in mind, it’s more important than ever that the technology sector—particularly those of us catering to government agencies—conducts business with a careful blend of caution and awareness.
Cybersecurity: A problem worth worrying about
Whether it’s a minor case of identity theft or a full-scale cyber assault perpetuated by a global superpower, more than 1 million adults around the world fall victim to cybercrime every day, with an estimated 54 percent of adults experiencing various types of cybercrime each year.
In other words: There’s a high probability that somewhere, someone is quietly launching a cyberattack that could jeopardize the privacy and security of thousands, even millions of people. And, with our lives increasingly shaped by technology, hackers have more opportunities than ever.
As technology grows more ingratiated into our existence, the opportunities to disrupt—or potentially upend—our lives grows with it. Our cars, our homes, our hospitals, our cities—it seems there’s nothing that can’t be connected to the internet, exposing us to any number of cyber security threats. Every day, we collectively upload more and more data—whether it’s private citizen information, like a credit card or bank account number; corporate trade secrets or federal intelligence pertaining to national security.
Of course, in the world of cybersecurity, information is the greatest currency—the more sensitive, the more valuable. What greater means of acquiring information is there than penetrating the organizations we entrust with it?
For the U.S. tech industry, caution is key
Whether it’s classified defense information or intellectual property, the costs of cyber espionage are devastating. We’ve seen this time and again, as an ever-growing number of federal agencies and other large organizations join the ranks of those targeted by internationally orchestrated cyberattacks.
Meanwhile, overseas corporations—including many based in rival nations—have shown an increasing interest in acquiring U.S. tech companies, a reality causing no shortage of anxiety across the federal spectrum. And, as consolidation opportunities abound in the technology manufacturing and distribution arena, our industry feels the pressure, with American companies entertaining offers from international corporations facing increasingly strict hurdles and regulations.
While doing business with any global superpower carries risks, some countries have proven exceptionally diligent in the cyber intelligence arena—particularly from an offensive standpoint. How much more effective could they become as their reach into the U.S. tech industry expands? And where does this leave those of us in the technology sector, tasked with supporting the federal government at a contract or client level?
Security lies at the heart of everything we do—and we have to act accordingly. For better or worse, government contractors have an obligation to act with careful consideration and an abundance of caution any time we see potential for consequences—even when we aren’t sure what those consequences might be.