Weekly Columns

In today’s world it’s common to make a financial transaction, read the top news headlines, search for a birthday present and update Facebook all before leaving for work. We live in an interconnected world that puts this convenience in the palm of our hand. That same convenience comes with a risk. 

Gone are the days of protecting money and valuables by just locking the door and stashing them in a safe. Today’s criminals can steal our money while our wallet is in our pants pocket by gaining access to our email password, usernames and bank account information.

Security breaches have happened at national retailers, restaurants, social media and our government agencies. These attacks put millions of individuals’ finances and privacy at risk and makes protecting our identity an ongoing challenge. Criminals constantly work to attack networks to steal our sensitive personal information. We need to stay one step ahead of the criminals responsible for these high-tech crimes. 

Arkansas is leading efforts to combat cyberterrorism. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) recently awarded the University of Arkansas System’s Criminal Justice Institute (CJI) nearly $500,000 to update its cyberterrorism courses to provide counter-cyberterrorism training. Additionally, the grant established the National Cybersecurity Preparedness Consortium which includes CJI and four additional schools. 

We all have a stake in improving cyber security. In an effort to raise awareness about this issue and to educate everyone - from schools, businesses and governments – on what they need to do to protect their data, October is recognized as National Cybersecurity Awareness Month. Launched more than a decade ago, this effort encourages the protection of our information and our nation’s critical cyber infrastructure. 

There is a clear connection between commerce and cyberspace. Cybersecurity keeps us on the path of continued success. However this critical component of our nation’s infrastructure needs better protection because cybercrimes evolve. The number of security incidents reported by federal agencies to the U.S. Computer Emergency Readiness Team increased 782 percent from 2006 to 2012 according to a 2013 Government Accountability Office report. The same report identified weaknesses in our government’s approach to cybersecurity including risk assessment, information sharing among federal agencies and key private sector entities and addressing international cybersecurity challenges. 

There is widespread consensus that cyberterrorism is quickly becoming the country’s biggest threat to our national security. During testimony before the Senate Homeland Security Committee last year, FBI Director James Comey testified that the risk of cyberattacks are likely to exceed the threats posed by terrorist groups as the top national security threat to our country. In late September the FBI warned of potential cyberattacks in response to our country’s fight against ISIL. 

Hackers will continue to challenge our cybersecurity and we must have the protections in place to stop future attacks. Just like Arkansans should take the necessary precautions to protect their accounts and information, the government needs to do the same. This needs to be a national priority.