Ruppersberger Warns of Cyber Threat

Cybersecurity is a potential time bomb, and the national media fail to inform the public about the threat, U.S. Rep. C.A. “Dutch” Ruppersberger told a gathering Tuesday at the U.S. Naval Academy.

Ruppersberger, D-Baltimore County, a member of the Naval Academy’s Board of Visitors, was one of several experts in cybersecurity at Alumni Hall for the U.S. Naval Institute’s 2012 Naval History Conference.

The congressman said “a catastrophe event could happen today.” He said there was no excuse for Congress, in August, not passing the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act, which would allow the sharing of Internet traffic information between the government and private businesses.

Ruppersberger had harsh words for the media’s lack of interest in cybersecurity.

“It’s almost as if we need to have another 9/11, and we can’t,” he said. “And that’s why we want to do these things ahead of time.”

By Alex Jackson, Capital Gazette 

Ruppersberger mentioned an attack on NASDAQ in October 2010 and an attack in which information on more than 1.5 million cards from Visa and Mastercard was digitally stolen from a payments processing company, first detected last March.

The U.S. Cyber Command estimates the value of secrets stolen from the United States at $300 billion each year.

The House Intelligence Committee, to which Ruppersberger belongs, is urging Americans to steer clear of two Chinese telecommunications companies, Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd. and ZTE Corp.

This report came after a year-long investigation during which Ruppersberger visited Hong Kong, where he questioned officials at both companies about their connections to the Chinese government.

Ruppersberger said Tuesday that the two companies failed to prove they were independent of China’s government.

“If you want to do business in our country, you better stop your country from cyber attacking us,” said Ruppersberger, who said that when it comes to cybersecurity he’s concerned about not just China but Iran, Russia and maybe even U.S. allies.

In recent weeks, the White House went public with claims that an undisclosed entity unsuccessfully attempted to infiltrate the computer networks at the White House.

Last week U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta warned of a “cyber Pearl Harbor,” saying the U.S. government and key IT systems remain vulnerable without enactment of the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act, which passed the House in April but was blocked by the Senate in August.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said this weekend he’d be bringing the the legislation back to the Senate floor when Congress returns in November.

Ruppersberger said Tuesday that Panetta’s comments have shifted attitudes in Congress and he’s now more confident the bill will pass. Meanwhile, the White House has said it could use an executive order to protect “critical infrastructure” from cybersecurity threats.

Ruppersberger represents parts of northern Anne Arundel County.

Also participating in the Naval Academy discussion were Steven R. Chabinsky, chief risk officer for security technology company CrowdStrike, and William B. Nelson, CEO of Reston, Va.-based Financial Services Information Sharing.

Financial Services Information Sharing and Analysis Center Inc. is a group of banks that share information about possible threats. It includes banks such as Citi, Prudential, Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase, Goldman Sachs and Wells Fargo.

Nelson said surveys show the number of attacks on banks is increasing, but increased customer education has helped half the losses from those attacks.

He said small banks are usually more vulnerable because they don’t have staff dedicated to cybersecurity.

“Your bank is safe and I can say that with 100 … well, maybe not 100 percent, certainty,” Nelson said.

Copyright 2012 Capital Gazette