Is the U.S. lagging in the cyberworld?

Just as we were putting this August edition to bed, various websites in the U.S. and South Korea were getting hit by fairly widespread cyberattacks. Did average cybercriminals enlist zombie computers in the region to launch these attacks or did Pyongyang formally launch the digital hits?

As other countries look to hone their skills in the cyber world, where does that leave us? It turns out that in the U.S., the Pentagon and White House sites held their own against the assault, but service to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and Treasury Department sites was disrupted by what really ended up being a DDoS attack launched by the botnet. 

Do we need some of the funds from the stimulus package to go directly to bettering our stance here? Or, since we've been harping on cybersecurity for some time with little forward movement happening, is this an indication of U.S. decline, as not only are our bridges, roads, military and economy going downhill, so too are our networks? We're still awaiting word on the appointment of a cyber coordinator. Will this pro help? Certainly couldn't hurt, I suppose, and neither could bolstering our cybersecurity practices.
For those of you planning to attend our SC World Congress on October 13 and 14 in New York City (see brochure beginning on pg. 37), you'll likely find the keynote by FTC Commissioner William Kovacic, who was FTC chairman until this March, quite an interesting one. He'll be discussing internet crime and the role the FTC has taken to address it – a topic that couldn't get any more timely in light of recent events – and share information about recent cases as examples.

Also signed up to be one of our keynote speakers is Robert Carr, CEO of Heartland Payment Systems, who will discuss how his company has learned from and overcome the sophisticated attack to which it fell victim in January. He has partaken in his share of interviews about these most recent online assaults against government sites, maintaining that all of us face a “cybercrime arms race” where bad guys are becoming more brazen in the kinds of attacks they launch. He and his company, after experiencing one of the biggest breaches yet, have taken steps to strengthen security practices.

It's time our government did the same. These latest cybersecurity attacks certainly aren't the first to show gaps in our security practices, but with some effort – supported by an acknowledgment that we've learned something – maybe they'll be the last.

Illena Armstrong is editor-in-chief, SC Magazine.

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