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Rep. Marsha Blackburn at Partisan Hearing on Cybercrime: ‘Hackers are Smart, and They are Adapting’

Casey Ryan



WASHINGTON, June 15, 2017 - Cybercrimes cost the global economy about $450 billion annually, House Communications Subcommittee Chairman Marsha Blackburn, R-Tennessee, said Tuesday as she cited the 2017 Hiscox Cyber Readiness Report.

“Hackers are smart, and they are adapting,” said Blackburn. “McAfee’s 2016 Mobile Threat Report notes mobile devices are quickly becoming the cybercriminals target of choice of the abundance of sensitive information individuals store on them.”

She spoke at a hearing on “Promoting Security in Wireless Technology,” and which focused on the current status of cyber-crimes and cyber-security.

Cyber threats include packet sniffing, rogue access points, jamming and locating flawed encryption algorithms. She said hackers do this to obtain financial information, user passwords and to block legitimate network traffic. She gave the November distributed denial of service attack on Dyn that disrupted websites, such as Twitter and Netflix, as an example.

Rep. Mike Doyle, D-Pennsylvania, interjected the issue of net neutrality, noting that there were just under 5 million comments in the Federal Communications Commission proceeding to repeal Obama-era regulations on the subject. That breaks the previous record of 3.7 million comments on the subject in 2015, he said. He also cited the example of Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. election an example in need of cybersecurity protections.

Rep. Jerry McNerney, D-California, discussed his Securing IoT Act that would require cybersecurity standards for devices making use of the so-called “Internet of Things.” He expressed disappointment that his Republican colleagues weren’e very interested in his bill.

Rep. Frank Pallone Jr., D-New Jersey, also blasted Republicans.

“Worse still, the only legislation House Republicans have pushed and supported within this subcommittee’s jurisdiction actually makes us less safe,” he said. “With no hearings or advance notice, the leadership of this Committee led the charge to strip away Americans’ privacy rights and throw out some of the only protections on the books to secure the data.”

The hearing, he said, was “another example of committee Republicans simply not taking these issues seriously.” The Democrats tried to offer their own cybersecurity witness to testify, but Pallone said the Republicans denied the expert a witness spot.

“These games have to stop because these issues are just too serious to keep playing politics with our national security,” Pallone said.

Rep. Yvette Clarke, D-N.Y., said she introduced the Cybersecurity Responsibility Act of 2017 because she wanted to reduce vulnerability of her constituents.

Among the witnesses, Bill Wright, director of government affairs for Symantec, said mobile phones need to start being treated like computers. In other words, they need to be protected just as much as computers too. Attackers are getting better, and cybercrime is very lucrative without much risk.

“The underground cybercrime marketplace is booming allowing even an art history major to conduct highly sophisticated cyberattacks,” he said.

Hackers only need to gain one’s phone to access everything.

Amit Yoran, chairman and chief executive officer of Tenable Network Security, said identifying assets is the foundation to developing a cybersecurity platform.

Charles Clancy, professor at Virginia Tech, said the problem is that current infrastructure is insecure and accessing hotspots, such as the ones offered at coffee shops, is also insecure.

Kiersten Todt, managing partner at Liberty Group Ventures, LLC, said the cloud and mobile adoption are just beginning, and both have become the access points to our lives. Mobile security is one of the greatest risks for all enterprises, she said, adding that the industry and the government have to work together to form cybersecurity legislation.

IoT devices that are hacked can have real world consequences, Wright said.

Yoran talked the dangers present in setting up Wi-Fi hotspots. Because they can be open for others to easily access, people can accidentally connect to rogue hotspots set up by cyber-criminals.

Clancy talked about the computer science programs at colleges, and he said a problem is that the computer science departments treat cybersecurity as a fad and aren’t teaching cyber-security classes.

(Photo of Marsha Blackburn by Gage Skidmore used with permission.)


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