Cyber expert talks cybersecurity risks under government shutdown

Published: January 23, 2019
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Some say the partial shutdown of the U.S. government is putting the nation’s cybersecurity at risk.

Frank Cilluffo, a globally renowned cyber expert and head of the McCrary Institute for Cyber and Critical Infrastructure Security at Auburn University, agrees, but the American people shouldn’t be concerned, yet.

“The American people should rest assured that the players most critical to the nation’s defense and protection are still at their posts, but if the current situation extends much longer, the top talent will likely jump ship and the long-term implications can be significant, further setting back the government’s ability to translate their strategies into reality,” he said.

On Jan. 22, Cilluffo and Sharon Cardash penned an opinion piece for The Hill.

Additional thoughts from Cilluffo:

  • Assuring the nation’s cybersecurity is hard enough on a good day, when all hands are on deck; but when the home team can’t field a full roster, the challenge is magnified and makes a tough situation even worse.
  • The good news though, is that the nation’s flagship civilian entity for incident response (the NCCIC: the National Cybersecurity and Communications Integration Center within the Cybersecurity and Critical Infrastructure Security Agency/DHS) remains 80% staffed.
  • In the event of a direct crisis (the recent response to the Domain Name Server – or DNS – highjacking campaign serves as a case in point), we should therefore still stand in reasonably good stead.
  • But, at the same time, longer-term issues and tasks, such as vulnerability assessments, that are truly important, are of necessity getting comparatively short shrift.
  • And from the standpoint of retention (of the nation’s cybersecurity workforce) the shutdown is particularly concerning.
  • Recruiting and retaining the best and brightest into the federal cyber workforce has always been a challenge, since the government can’t compete with private sector salaries.
  • The U.S. government’s greatest selling point has always been the mission: the opportunity to serve the national interest and make a real difference/impact. With that fundamental understanding now placed in question and jeopardy by the shutdown, there could be serious long-term implications for the nation.