Cyber security has become an important issue in the past couple years, in large part because of events involving election meddling and hacking which took place during the 2016 election cycle. While calls to improve cyber security in the US have come from both sides of the aisle, Republicans have been talking about the issue long before 2016. Republicans, particularly those who are hawkish on foreign policy, have been concerned about cyber security for a long time: there were numerous instances before 2016 where the US government, US businesses, and US banking institutions had their systems breached by foreign actors, and in almost all cases the hackers were operating inside countries the US has historically had an adversarial relationship with: Russia, China, North Korea, and Iran being the most well known. Many Republicans have accused President Trump of being too friendly with leaders like Russian president Vladimir Putin and Chinese president Xi Jinping, two men a plurality of Republican lawmakers believe have personally had a hand in directing cyberattacks against US entities. Many Republicans have campaigned on the issue of cyber security, and this trend is likely to continue into 2020.
The Department of Commerce Is Taking on Cyber Security
The New York Times recently reported that the U.S. Department of Commerce is seriously considering imposing export rules on artificial intelligence (AI) technologies, a move which many, especially those in Conservative Republican circles, believe will exacerbate the U.S.’s ongoing trade war with China. The Commerce Department announced that it was considering implementing the export rules in an effort to promote U.S. cyber security. Opponents of the potential regulations, however, fear that these new rules, if implemented, will stifle innovation and weaken American dominion in the field of AI development. The NYT also reports the Commerce Department is considering implementing restrictions on cloud technology.
At present, innumerable amounts of AI computer code is available, freely, and shared around the world by academic and corporate research departments; for this reason, many suspect that the aforementioned potential export rules would be unable to limit the spread and development of strategically important AI in the U.S. It’s no secret that AI research and development is a top priority of many countries across the globe, and such a reality may in large part explain why the U.S., which has long had an advantage in this sphere, is now seriously considering implementing controls.
What Is the Current State of American Cyber Security?
Is the U.S. winning the war to protect data? According to Rob Joyce, the National Security Agency’s senior adviser on cyber security strategy, the trend is “going the wrong way.” In a live interview held at the WSJ Pro Cyber security Executive Forum, Mr. Joyce was asked by WSJ reporter Robert McMillan, in front of an audience of security experts and business leaders, about what the U.S.’s current status regarding cyber security was. “It’s not getting better, it’s getting worse,” Mr. Joyce said as he urged firms to be more vigilant in protecting applications, systems, and infrastructure. During the interview Mr. Joyce routinely referenced the 2016 election cycle, which investigators later found was interfered with by hackers, and said there are already signs which indicate hackers will use more sophisticated tactics to interfere in the 2020 elections.
Robby Mook, campaign manager for Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign, predicts that hackers will use several new tactics, like deep fake videos, to sow confusion around the time of the next American presidential election. “We still have a challenge [when] it’s expensive to secure [a] campaign, and campaign people are not cyber security experts … They’re never going to be and they can’t afford to hire someone who is,” Mr. Mook said during a panel discussion at the WSJ Pro Cyber security Executive Forum. But election infrastructure isn’t the only thing lawmakers on both sides of the aisle are concerned about: critical infrastructure and data in federal IT systems is as well now at growing risk of cyber attack. There have already been high-profile attacks on the Democratic National Committee, Equifax Inc., Facebook Inc., and Under Armour Inc.
Which Countries Are Putting American Cyber Security at Risk?
Russia, China, North Korea, and Iran are currently the U.S.’s biggest threats to cyber security, as far as foreign actors are concerned, and Mr. Joyce suggested this opposition may be due to these countries being “outside the norm that the rest of us are living with.” In September of last year, the White House said it would bolster its offensive cyber capabilities, in part by doing away with constraints which regulated when the U.S. can deploy cyber weaponry against its adversaries. The White House also announced at this time that it would be directing federal agencies to aid state and local governments, and private-sector security contractors as well, to strengthen and better safeguard government systems. Trump administration National Security Adviser, John Bolton, said at the time that this new strategy was essential because America and her partners abroad are “under attack every day in cyberspace.” Judd Choate, Director of the Division of Elections at Colorado’s Department of State, echoed Mr. Bolton’s sentiments at the WSJ Pro Cyber security Executive Forum in New York: “Many states need money; they need assistance.” Federal authorities, security officials at the Department of Homeland Security, and other agencies have been relaying more pertinent information about cyber threats to state and local election officials, according to Mr. Choate, in light of what happened back during the 2016 election cycle. In addition, more election officials now have security clearance to receive classified information from the federal government than they did two years ago.
China is increasingly becoming a concern for U.S. authorities on the frontlines of cyber security, and senior federal investigators are now saying that Chinese corporate espionage has metastasized into a full-blown national and economic security threat. “Beijing is exploiting American technology to develop its own economy,” senior federal investigators told WSJ reporters Dustin Volz and Aruna Viswanatha. And with an end to the current U.S.-China trade war still unforeseeable, authorities are anticipating even more cyberattacks in the future.
- The Morning Download: Feds Consider Restrictions on AI Exports – Wall Street Journal
- NSA Cyber Chief Says Companies Are Losing Ground Against Adversaries – Wall Street Journal
- The Morning Download: FBI Cites Chinese Espionage as Top National Security Threat – Wall Street Journal
- The Morning Download: Losing the Cyber War, But Living to Fight Another Day – Wall Street Journal
- Despite Inactivity During Midterm Elections, Hackers Are Likely To Ramp Up Attacks In 2020 – Wall Street Journal
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