While many people will undoubtedly watch for possible tax hikes to assist middle-class Americans, chief information security officers will likely be more interested to hear what President Barack Obama plans to do about cybercrime in his State of the Union address on Tuesday, Jan. 20.
Obama has already made announcements that demonstrate how concerned the federal government has become about the rise of high-profile data breaches in U.S. organizations. According to Bloomberg, a recent visit from U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron saw him discuss a new partnership that would bring together British and U.S. authorities to combat cybercriminals.
The government provided even greater detail on the White House blog, which confirmed that the State of the Union address would include a strong focus on explaining other measures to protect Americans from cybercrime. For example, Obama may discuss $25 million in grants to develop IT security education programs at post-secondary institutions and steps to foster greater cooperation between the public and private sector around sharing data about security breaches.
Combining Security With Rights
The National Journal said Obama will need to strike the right balance in his State of the Union address between efforts to thwart cyberattacks such as the one perpetrated against Sony Pictures and respecting Americans’ fears of surveillance by law enforcement agencies. To do this, the government’s recently introduced legislation aims to help private sector firms such as Sony identify potential risks early on and communicate them to the Department of Homeland Security or the National Security Agency.
The U.S. government might feel particularly pressured to show it is facing cyberthreats head-on after an embarrassing cyberattack against the U.S. Central Command’s Twitter account, The Guardian suggested. The incident, which was reportedly carried out by jihadist cybercriminals associated with ISIS, also saw Central Command’s YouTube channel briefly taken over, blanking out content while tweets being sent showed images of government spreadsheets.
Beyond the State of the Union
Although the data breach notification law would compel hacked organizations to inform victims within a month of an IT security incident, The Huffington Post noted the government may need to do more work internally to meet the standards of information protection that may be laid out in the State of the Union address. On the other hand, a federal law would potentially provide consumers with more consistent alerts of cyberattacks than what might be required by lawmakers at the state level.
Of course, cybercrime tends to evolve at a rate much faster than the slow wheels of the government, and eWEEK noted that Congress has had proposals similar to those being touted by Obama for years. The State of the Union will be the current administration’s chance to prove it can get results while responding to a flurry of criticism from groups such as the Electronic Frontier Foundation. However, it shouldn’t be forgotten that cybercriminals will be among the people watching Obama’s speech, and they are already thinking about how they will find a way around whatever the government does.
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