United States Facing Cyber Security Crisis, Experts Tell Capitol Hill Briefing

Experts such as MIT professor F. Thomson Leighton and Purdue University professor Eugene Spafford painted a bleak picture of U.S. cybersecurity at the July 26 Forum on Cybersecurity on Capitol Hill. Leighton, a senior member of the recently disbanded President’s Information Technology Advisory Committee (PITAC), called for a dramatic increase in funding for basic research and development in civilian cybersecurity. He said the country’s IT infrastructure still faces grave and immediate threats despite positive steps such as Congressional approval of the Cyber Security Research and Development Act of 2002 and the establishment of a new position of assistant secretary for cybersecurity at the Homeland Security Department. Leighton said the private sector plays an important role in securing IT infrastructure, but the federal government must sponsor the discovery and development of cybersecurity technologies underlying private-sector security products and services. He also said the federal cybersecurity effort has shifted toward classified military rather than civilian R&D, concurrent with a move favoring short-term over long-term research across all sectors. Spafford warned that public support for better cybersecurity measures will not be spurred until U.S. IT infrastructure suffers “a very large and significant failure.” PITAC issued a report in February recommending a $90 million a year increase in the National Science Foundation’s budget for civilian cybersecurity research; more DHS and DARPA-directed investment in civilian cybersecurity R&D; and a stronger effort to promote recruitment and retention of university cybersecurity researchers and students.
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