The US Government’s Cyber Security Apparatus is a Mess
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The US Government’s Cyber Security Apparatus is a Mess

Key seats are unfilled, its talent is fleeing and recent leaks have thrown everything into disarray

According to a report by Defense One senior correspondent, Joseph Marks, the US government’s cyber security posture is severely compromised. Over 10 months into the Trump administration, the US cyber security ranks are severely understaffed.

Among the unfilled positions are:

  • Federal Chief Information Officer
  • Federal Chife Information Security Officer
  • Head of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Protection Division
  • Numerous Agency CIOs and CISOs

The official reason? There’s other stuff further ahead on the list.

“It’s not an intentional emptiness today and not an intentional decision to keep those empty going forward,” White House Cyber Security Coordinator Rob Joyce said on Thursday. “It’s more stacking up the nominations and clearing the decks of the senior-most leaders and ambassadors we’ve got to get through.”

Here’s the long and short of this, and we’ll start with a preface of sorts. This problem, nor this article, are really political in nature insofar as partisan politics are concerned. The Trump Administration is not willfully holding these appointments up. The blame, in this case, goes on the shoulders of bureaucracy and the fact that ten months into a new administration, we still haven’t gotten vital seats filled because we’re still handling other, even more senior appointments, is an indictment on the entire system.

Sure, the past decade has seen partisanship creep into even the most mundane parts of procedure – and that has certainly slowed the process even more – but let’s not pretend like this has ever been a quick, painless process. The changing over of power in a country as big as ours takes time. That’s understandable.

But the inability to fast-track these appointments, especially given recent events, just goes to show you how little our leaders understand the stakes in this new realm of digital warfare. And that’s what it is. Russian interference in our most recent national election, regardless of to what extent, can be seen as an act of war. Elsewhere in China, North Korea, Israel and many of the former Soviet States, acts of cyber warfare are committed almost daily.

That the United States has let these key positions go unfilled for nearly a year just shows how much our leaders still don’t get it.

It’s very likely that the next weapon of mass destruction will be digital. Every day we hear about new, more frightening ways that hackers can take over systems and potentially harm us – whether that’s hacking a pacemaker or taking over a city’s subway lines. The threats continue to mount and other governments seem to have their ducks in a row at this stage of the game.

These positions need to be filled. And they need to be filled with intelligent, forward-looking people that can perform the roles adequately. As I said before, this isn’t a polticial issue now and it shouldn’t be moving forward. And we need to move forward, quickly.

What does it say about us that less than a year after a foreign power potentially impacted our presidential election that we can’t even fully staff our cyber defense apparatus? And that’s to say nothing of the talent that has fled to the private sector and the Shadow Broker leaks that have shuttered entire projects and thrown multiple organizations into disarray.

This is a problem that needs attention. Let’s hope it gets some before it’s too late.

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Author

Patrick Nohe

Hashed Out’s Editor-in-Chief also serves as Content Manager for The SSL Store™.