By Representative Aaron Schock
Would it concern you to know that by the time you finish reading this column, a major U.S. corporation could be hacked and millions of personal records could be stolen, including yours? How many times did you use a computer, Smartphone, bank or credit card this week? If these questions alarm you, they should. The unfortunate truth is that, despite the best efforts of industry and government, our country is incredibly vulnerable to cyber-attacks and espionage.
In 2007, clothing retailer T.J. Maxx's computer system was breached by a hacker, resulting in 94 million credit card accounts being stolen. Sony was attacked in 2011, costing them $171 million. Another U.S. company had an IP address stolen, which cost 20,000 manufacturing jobs. RSA, a leading Internet-security company, was a hacking victim last year, which many experts believe was part of a larger effort to target critical entities such as defense contractors and financial institutions.
Cyber-attacks cost the U.S. economy more than $200 billion annually, which could be used to make investments and hire more employees. Often state sponsors such as China or Russia are responsible; even the Russian mob has gotten into the game.
Bolstering our cyber-defenses needs to be a higher national priority. This past week, the House took action by passing the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA). I am a co-sponsor of this bipartisan legislation, which passed the House with 248 votes. This bill allows the private sector to detect and share information about cyber-threats, while giving the intelligence community the ability to share threat information with the private sector so that it can better defend itself. The bill has received broad support from the technology industry, including Facebook and Microsoft. There also is broad agreement in the Senate and within the Obama administration that more has to be done. The bill should be brought up for a vote in the Senate soon.
It is important to note that this bill does not contain new federal spending, does not create a new government bureaucracy, does not mandate new federal requirements. This legislation simply breaks down the barriers so that if a sophisticated attack is coming from a specific IP address, and U.S. intelligence officials know it's coming, our government can tip off the company in advance so it can raise its online defenses. Under current law, there are limitations that prevent sharing of this level of threat information. CISPA corrects this while at the same time protecting privacy by encouraging the private sector to "anonymize" the information that it voluntarily shares.
I believe that the less government is involved in the Internet, the better. CISPA ensures this continues to be the case, while also affirming our country is doing all it can to prevent cyber-attacks and espionage.
Aaron Schock represents Peoria as congressman from the 18th District.