Weekly Columns

The internet has changed the way we live. It’s become common to manage banking transactions, shop for birthday presents and communicate with our friends and family, often times from our phones. While it’s convenient to conduct business over the internet, it also means we’re sharing more of our personal information. This includes bank accounts, social security numbers and home addresses which makes us more vulnerable to hackers trying to, and often succeeding at, stealing our information.

A 2016 Pew Research Center study found that 64 percent of Americans have been victims of a data breach that included fraudulent credit card charges, a compromised Social Security number and attempts to get loans or a line of credit fraudulently. Unfortunately, this is a problem that transcends industries, individuals and businesses. Equifax Inc. recently revealed that it was hacked over the summer, compromising the personal information of 143 million Americans. This is the latest in a string of high-profile breaches to hit our nation such as those at Yahoo! Inc. and Target which affected 1.5 billion and 41 million consumers, respectively. 

We can all take measures to reduce the risk of our information being breached. October is recognized as National Cybersecurity Awareness Month. This effort raises awareness of the importance of cybersecurity and encourages us all to take action to protect our information and our nation’s critical cyber infrastructure. Incorporating safety measures like creating strong password protection, securing our mobile devices and updating mobile apps are just a few steps we can take to safeguard our sensitive information. 

Just as critical is protecting cybersecurity in the workplace. This is a shared responsibility among all employees, no matter where we work or our position. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) reminds us that cybercriminals often rely on human error to gain access to systems, so it’s critical that everyone within the organization knows what to watch for in order to maintain safety. Installing software updates, deleting suspicious emails and reporting them to the IT Department and establishing a strong password are simple steps that go a long way to preventing a cyberattack and compromising the data of any organization.

The federal government has unfortunately fallen victim to cyberattacks. Our cyber-networks are under constant attack. We must continue developing capabilities to protect our information as attacks evolve and become more sophisticated. 

A February 2017 Government Accountability Office (GAO) study recommended actions to strengthen our cybersecurity and protect critical infrastructure which includes the electrical grid, banks and traffic lights that connect to the internet. A breach of our infrastructure could have serious consequences for our economy. As Chairman of the Homeland Security Appropriations Subcommittee, I’m working with my colleagues to ensure we have the resources and tools to safeguard our nation’s infrastructure. 

We have made progress, but there is still much to be done to ensure we prevent cyberattacks.

Our lives are more dependent on the internet than ever before. This trend will only continue. President Trump showed his commitment to cybersecurity with the nomination of Kirstjen Nielsen to serve as the next Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security. Nielsen has impressive national security and cybersecurity background which will be helpful as we secure our country against future cyberattacks.