Government vs. Cyber Criminals

From top US military secrets to Social Security numbers, the $10 billion-a-year effort to protect the government’s most confidential information is struggling to keep up with the increasing number of cyber-attacks being undermined by both federal employees and government contractors. In a 2010 analysis by the Associated Press, more than a dozen federal agencies, from the Defense and Education departments to the National Weather Service, have been responsible for at least half of the federal cyber-attacks reported each year. In one incident, about 5 million health records of current and former Pentagon employees and their families were exposed after a government contractor left data tapes in their car. Although most incidents are unintentional, some cases have been deliberate such as the case where National Security Agency contractor, Edward Snowden, downloaded and leaked confidential documents revealing the government’s collection of phone and e-mail records. Despite the fact that intelligence officials claim cybersecurity now trumps terrorism as the number one threat to the United States, the federal government is not required to publicize its own encounters with data breaches. Whether it be clicking links in bogus phishing e-mails or opening websites containing malware intended to scam people into sharing information, most cyber-attacks are enabled by employees unintentionally connecting to a defective link. “It’s a much bigger challenge than anyone could have imagined 20 years ago,” said Phyllis Schneck, Deputy Undersecretary for cybersecurity and the Department of Homeland Security which runs a 24/7 incident-response center responding to threats. With a growing number of cyber-related challenges ahead, it appears as though, with the increasing dependency of technology comes an increase of cyber-crimes.