The Scary Reality of Our Cyber Vulnerability

If you think cyber crime and cyber terrorism aren't real, let alone scary, think again. Eventually, I hope Americans focus on this critical issue every day, not just one month out of the year.
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With Halloween right around the corner, many of us are casting about for creative costume ideas. Here's a suggestion for a truly frightening option -- try being a cyber criminal or a terrorist.

If you think cyber crime and cyber terrorism aren't real, let alone scary, think again. According to the FBI, in 2008 a wave of thieves fanned out across the globe and almost simultaneously walked off with more than $9 million within 12 hours, using cloned credit card numbers they got by hacking a major credit card company in Atlanta. Further, in 2009 Lockheed Martin and the Department of Defense lost plans to America's future advanced jet fighter, the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter -- one that isn't even mass-produced yet -- to suspected Chinese hackers. I'm hard pressed to think which is scarier - the cyber criminals who can hack into businesses or personal networks and steal millions or the cyber terrorists who can attack everything from power plants to military installations with a few key strokes.

Given the truly scary potential these cyber criminals and terrorists possess, it's entirely fitting that we observe National Cybersecurity Awareness Month every October. This year marks the seventh annual National Cybersecurity Awareness Month which is conducted by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the Multi-State Information Sharing and Analysis Center (MS-ISAC) and the National Cyber Security Alliance (NCSA). As part of the Department of Homeland Security's "Stop.Think.Connect." campaign to increase public understanding of cyber threats, this annual cybersecurity awareness campaign is designed to encourage Americans to protect their computers and our nation's critical cyber infrastructure.

Across the country, people are working to build awareness of the importance of cybersecurity and the significant threat posed by cyber attacks. In my home state of Delaware, we recognized National Cybersecurity Awareness Month with activities designed to educate Delawareans about the importance of protecting the cyber networks that underpin everything from our bank accounts to the electricity grid and the systems we depend on for our national security. Under the theme "Cybersecurity is Our Shared Responsibility," Delaware's top professionals, government officials and students participated in training, simulation exercises and presentations. I am proud that Delaware continues to be a leader in teaching others about the importance of being vigilant online, not just during the month of October, but throughout the year.

As National Cybersecurity Awareness Month comes to a close, I hope this campaign's outreach was successful in educating Delawareans and all Americans about the importance of cybersecurity and the new technological threats we face. Eventually, I hope Americans focus on this critical issue every day, not just one month out of the year.

Given the serious nature of this growing threat, we have to do more to protect our critical information networks. That's why I will continue to work with my Congressional colleagues to pass comprehensive cybersecurity legislation, the Protecting Cyberspace as a National Asset Act of 2010, which I authored with Sens. Joe Lieberman (ID-Conn.) and Susan Collins (R-Me.). This legislation will help provide the government and the private sector with the tools and resources they need to more effectively protect our vital cyber networks.

To learn more about National Cybersecurity Awareness Month and download free online safety tips and resources, I encourage you to visit the Department of Homeland Security's website on Cybersecurity: Our Shared Responsibility.

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