The recent data breach at Equifax was a reminder of how vulnerable we are to cyber attacks, which are occurring with more frequency and intensity around the world than ever before. Pamela Dixon, executive director of the nonprofit research group World Privacy Forum, said in a New York Times piece that the Equifax breach was “about as bad as it gets.”
I agree with her. Data on 143 million U.S. customers was exposed and Equifax said this includes names, birth dates, Social Security numbers, addresses and some driver’s license numbers — all of which the company aims to protect for its customers.
I serve on the National Infrastructure Advisory Council, which reports to the White House on measures of critical infrastructure, such as power, transportation and cyber security. President Barack Obama appointed me to the post in 2016, and I have continued to serve on the council since the election of President Trump.
Following President Trump’s response to the events in Charlottesville in August, I was invited to resign from the council. Several of my colleagues did resign (more than a quarter of the members), citing the President’s remarks about the racial unrest in Virginia, and his withdrawal from the Paris Climate Agreement.
But they also stepped down in protest of what they called President Trump’s “insufficient attention to the growing threats to the cyber security of the critical systems upon which all Americans depend, including those impacting the systems supporting our democratic election process.”
“Unfortunately,” they wrote, “our experience to date has not demonstrated that the Administration is adequately attentive to the pressing national security matters within the NIAC’s purview, or responsive to sound advice received from experts and advisors on these matters.”
In my opinion, the non-responsive administration is all the more reason to stay on this important council, which I have agreed to do. Remaining involved does not mean I concur with the actions by the administration; it means I feel it is necessary to remain engaged with national security leaders to best coordinate and to apply our resources to defend against continuing cyber attacks.
The last time most of the members of NIAC met was on Aug. 22, when we presented a comprehensive draft of our report on Securing Cyber Assets, warning the administration that the U.S. infrastructure is in “a pre-911 moment” when it comes to cybersecurity. The report stressed cyber threats are escalating, and the recent Equifax breach is just one example of how bad it can get if our nation doesn’t shore up its cyber defenses. I plan to continue working with the remaining 20 experts and advisors on this council to help ensure that objective is achieved.