US uses foreign companies for cyber defense

Should the United States be trusting foreign companies to protect the country's most valuable information? Photo: public image

WASHINGTON, AUGUST 22,2013 — There may as well be an Israeli Flag flown over the Department of Homeland Security. The Department has just announced that it will integrate IBM software into its Continuous Diagnostics and Mitigation (CDM) program a day after IBM’s announcement that it has acquired the Israeli cyber defense powerhouse company, Trusteer.

The acquisition and the announcement by DHS may go under the radar, but sends a big message to the United States and the world about the quality of American made cyberdefense. That message is: US cyber security firms aren’t cutting it.

This CDM program, which includes up to 6 billion in contracts to a wide range of companies, works to fight and defend against cyber threats in both the government and civilian sectors. The programs DHS will use from IBM will help transform the nation’s security networks from an antiquated system to a system that focuses on combatting attacks in real-time.  

Trusteer, an Israel company, currently serves as the main cyber security provider to 7 of the top ten American banks and nine of the top ten UK firms. It specializes in defending against financial fraud and advanced security threats, two things that both Israel and the US experience all too often.

But how does a nation of 7.8 million people with the world’s 49th largest GDP which experiences 100,000 cyber-attacks a day out produce a country of 313 million with the world’s largest GDP where the National Nuclear Security Administration faces up to 10 million Cyber-attacks daily?

The answer is not simple but focuses mainly on education and geography. Obviously, only the former is subject to change but the latter contributes significantly to the false image of safety.

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The need for experts and analysts in the Cyber defense world is outpacing the flow of qualified applicants. Many are siphoned off by the allure of making money while others see it more has a hobby than a profession. “This isn’t a fad,” says Richard Harknett, a member of Ohio’s Cyber Security Education and Economic Development Council. “We keep doubling down on this. We’re doubling down on an insecure infrastructure for convenience and efficiency.”

The need to attract a skilled workforce and sway many from going into the private and illegal sector cannot be overstated. The stakes are huge, and the United States cannot count on the expertise of foreigners forever.

The government has begun to get it. President Obama proposed expanding the cyber security budget by nearly a billion dollars after reports showed cyber threats to US infrastructure and banks were larger than the threats of terrorism.

Oceans are no longer natural protective barriers for America’s enemies but lull Americans into a false security. It took nineteen hijackers to show America and the world that the USA could no longer count on two large oceans to protect it from its enemies. Today, a cyber-attack on the United States can cause more destruction and chaos than what America experienced on 9/11. The difference today is that the threat is posed not by a group of individuals but by one man with a computer.

Israel may be the best example to learn from. A small country that is under assault every day from enemies on every border. Israel has double the number of scientists and cyber engineers at its disposal. In addition to reaching out to venture capital firms to find the best, Israel also targets the younger generation through education.

“What Israel has done is focus much more heavily on technical skills and leave the political work to the politicians,” says Alan Paller, the man who examined Israeli cyber security strategy for the US Department of Homeland Security’s Task Force on CyberSkills. “Their skill level [per capita] … outdoes everyone, even China, despite China’s “massive program” for developing skilled cyber experts.”

The United States should push for and promote improved domestic cybersecurity programs. Relying on foreign corporations for securing the government from cyberattacks is equivalent to staking National Security itself on foreign corporations, something the United States, in a world of shifting alliances and partners, should not do.  


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Andrew Scarpitta

Andrew Scarpitta is a young, conservative writer who found himself in New York on 9/11 and on Boylston Street, Boston when the Marathon Bombs exploded.  A studen of History and Political Science, Andrew has experience working with WMD and Middle East Politcy for the Department of Defense and a prominent DC Think Tank.  Andrew's future includes a career in intelligence. 

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