Rep. Hurd champions modernizing federal cybersecurity

The federal government is and will continue to be a target of cyber crimes. According to the Identity Theft Resource Center, U.S. companies and government agencies suffered a total of 1,093 data breaches in 2016. Mid-year numbers for 2017 show 791 incidents as of the end of June — a 29 percent increase over the same period in 2016. With that said, is the government doing enough to prepare for cyber threats?

On this episode of CyberChat, host Sean Kelley, former Environmental Protection Agency chief information security officer and former Veterans Affairs Department deputy chief information officer, spoke with Rep. Will Hurd (R-Texas) about initiatives to modernize the federal cybersecurity space.

Hurd serves the 23rd District of Texas and also serves on the Oversight and Government Reform Committee, Homeland Security Committee and the Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence.

As the pioneer and champion of the Modernizing Government Technology Act, Hurd understands the government has countless challenges when it comes to cybersecurity. But with the MGT Act, he believes those challenges will decrease drastically by allowing agencies to put money in working capital funds to feed modernizing efforts. “A handful of agencies are already poised to be able to take advantage of this,” Hurd said.

If passed into law, the MGT Act would allow the integration of oversight of the working capital funds into the FITARA scorecards, which has been fully supported by the GAO.

Hurd believes equipping future generations with the right technical tools will greatly enhance abilities to fight future threats. The Cyber National Guard is one example. “If a high school student is interested in getting some type of degree related to cybersecurity, we’re going to try to find federal dollars for that. And if you take some federal dollars to go to school then when you graduate, you’re going to come work in the federal government for that same length of time,” Hurd said.

The Cyber Proving grounds is another example through which the private sector helps the federal sector by developing and proposing 30-, 60- and 90-day cyber solutions. “Being able to be nimble with having the private sector help us solve some problems that we’re dealing with in the federal government, is going to be a way to improve our cooperation,” Hurd said.

Quantum computing will be another big deal for the cyber world. “There’s a reason that other countries are hoarding encrypted data that’s basically gibberish now with the expectation that once they achieve quantum computing, they will be able to understand older secrets,” Hurd said.

The government should also be preparing for what Hurd called “Y2Q (Years to Quantum)” by developing partnerships. “We should be working with our allies on making sure that we develop [quantum computing], we get there first because it is it is it is going to be a game-changer. Now it’s not only just a threat, but an opportunity because it’s going to cause encryption to be turned on its head,” Hurd said.

Top takeaways:

1. The MGT Act would allow the integration of oversight of the working capital funds into the FITARA scorecards.

2. The Cyber National Guard, would allow cross-pollination of ideas between the public and private sector.

3. The Cyber Proving Grounds has the potential to develop unique connections between the federal and private sector.

4. Y2Q (Years to Quantum) will become a major key to protecting data/secrets.

5. The more future generations are exposed to computer science and at an earlier age, the safer we will be.

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