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Coburn: Government should get its own cyberhouse in order

The government can't help the private sector if it can't first protect itself, senator argues

Feb. 5, 2014 - 11:06AM   |  
By ANDY MEDICI   |   Comments
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Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) says the government should solve its own cybersecurity problems before trying to help the private sector. (Mike Morones/Staff)

The federal government needs to do a better job of protecting its own IT infrastructure from cyber threats before it can help the private sector, according to Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla.

Coburn, the ranking member of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, has issued a report saying the government has struggled for more than a decade to protect itself from malicious cyber attacks.

Bonus: Read Coburn’s report.

“As we move forward on this national strategy to boost the cybersecurity of our nation’s critical infrastructure, we cannot overlook the critical roles played by many government operations, and the dangerous vulnerabilities which persist in their information systems,” the report said.

The report lists examples of preventable cyber attacks on federal agencies and systems, including:

■ The Emergency Broadcast System, operated by the Federal Communications Commission, which was compromised by a cyber attack that broadcast zombie attack warnings to residents of several states.

■ The National institute of Standards Technology suffered an attack on its web servers, which forced the agency to take them offline for several days.

■ The Energy Department, which saw the personal data of about 100,000 employees, contractors and their families stolen.

The report said many attacks could be prevented by regularly installing security and software upgrades, creating robust passwords and encryption systems and avoiding websites that download viruses or other vulnerabilities to federal systems.

“While politicians like to propose complex new regulations, massive new programs, and billions in new spending to improve cybersecurity, there are very basic – and critically important – precautions that could protect our infrastructure and our citizens’ private information that we simply aren’t doing,” Coburn said.

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