April 12, 2011

Whitehouse Chairs Hearing to Highlight Cyber Threat

Washington, DC – At a hearing held today in the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime and Terrorism, witnesses testified that cyber attacks represent a fast growing threat to national security. Subcommittee Chairman Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), who last year chaired the Senate Intelligence Committee’s Cyber Task Force, urged quick action to bolster America’s cyber defenses.

“These crimes hurt companies’ bottom lines, and they kill American jobs, shuttering small businesses by robbing them of their core intellectual property, making a new product line unprofitable by enabling a foreign company to reap the benefit of American research and development, or preventing the next great American company from ever bringing the next great innovation to market,” said Whitehouse. “We need to do more to defeat the massive and worsening cyber threat.”

Every year, cyber attacks inflict enormous harm on our nation’s consumers, businesses, and government agencies. This constant cyber assault has resulted in the theft of millions of Americans’ identities; the loss of billions of dollars of intellectual property; vulnerability of critical infrastructure to sabotage; and intrusions into sensitive government networks.

Witnesses at today’s hearing included Gordon Snow, Assistant Director for the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s (FBI) Cyber Division. Speaking about the potential impact of a cyber attack on American businesses, Snow said, “A small company may not be able to survive even one significant cyber attack… Often, businesses are unable to recoup their losses, and it may be impossible to estimate their damage.”

Also testifying at the hearing was John Savage, a computer science professor at Brown University, who expressed confidence that the cyber threat could be managed through increased deterrents and security measures. “I liken our computers to our homes. A determined attacker can easily break into them. So why aren’t most of our homes invaded more often? Apparently because the locks are good enough, the neighbors sufficiently vigilant, uniformed police officers sufficiently visible, and the punishment, if caught and convicted, sufficiently onerous to deter attackers. We need to arrive at a similar state in cyber.”

The hearing also featured testimony from Jason Weinstein, Deputy Assistant Attorney General at the United States Department of Justice Criminal Division; Pablo Martinez, Deputy Special Agent In Charge at the U.S. Secret Service’s Criminal Investigation Division, Cyber Crime Operations; Phyllis Schneck, Chief Technology Officer for McAfee, Inc.; and Stewart Baker of Steptoe & Johnson, LLP in Washington, DC.

Rhode Island has emerged as a leader in the fight against cyber threats. Just yesterday, the University of Rhode Island hosted a Cyber Security Symposium to examine the existing threats. Senator Whitehouse spoke at the symposium, along with General Keith Alexander, Director of the National Security Agency and Commander of the U.S. Cyber Command, and Congressman Jim Langevin (D-RI), a leader on cyber security in the U.S. House of Representatives, who organized the event and brought General Alexander to Rhode Island.


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