We must be vigilant about cybersecurity

By: Assemblyman Kevin Kiley
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It could have been the plot of a Hollywood thriller. Last March, hackers breached the city of Atlanta’s digital network, freezing municipal employees out of their computers until a $51,000 ransom - to be paid in bitcoin - was transferred to an anonymous online account. For more than a week, residents couldn’t pay their bills, courts had no way to validate warrants and police lost access to their criminal databases.

The ransom was never paid. Nevertheless, the hack cost Atlanta taxpayers more than $2.7 million in system upgrades and repairs. And this wasn’t even the most egregious case of a recent security breach.

A year earlier, a computer virus effectively shut down Britain’s national health system, preventing doctors from accessing medical records and forcing patients to stay home.

The hack into Equifax, just two months later, compromised the tax IDs, social security numbers, and drivers’ licenses of an estimated 145-million Americans.

If trends hold, cyber crime will cost the global economy $2 trillion a year by 2020. The highest price will be paid by small businesses, which are the victims of just over half of all cyberattacks. With the cost of a security breach averaging $53,000, 60 percent of victimized businesses face insolvency within six months.

The gravity of the threat warrants a serious response. California has been proactive in this regard, pioneering legislation that provides for reasonable safeguards of user data and, as of three years ago, setting up a cybersecurity task force to oversee the digital defense of government departments and critical infrastructure. I recently supported legislation to make that task force permanent and have authored separate legislation allowing hacking victims to freeze their credit ratings without charge.

State security measures, however, can only go so far. Most cyber criminals infiltrate computer systems not through sophisticated hacks but by so-called “phishing techniques,” where the victim is tricked into installing a virus by a phony website or a fabricated email that appears to come from a trusted source.

That’s why the best defense against hackers is to understand their tactics. To that end, I am hosting a Cyber Security Forum at Destiny Community Center in Rocklin on Friday, May 25. The free event, to take place from 12 to 1:30 p.m., will feature presentations by cybersecurity specialists from Ariento Cyber Security (a nationally-recognized cyber defense provider) and the city of Roseville.

Cybercrime ranks among the greatest threats to our public infrastructure and economic security. As is the case with any public safety challenge, a strong defense depends on shared vigilance.


Assemblyman Kevin Kiley represents the 6th Assembly District, which includes parts of El Dorado, Placer and Sacramento counties.