Langevin on "Cyberresilience"

U.S. Rep. James R. Langevin, D-RI, is the co-author of a scary op-ed in the Washington Times today on our susceptability to a cyber-attack and our need for "cyberresilience," an almost-impossible-to-imagine level of public-private cooperation to protect the country against a digital demolition.

The reasons for doing so are manifest. In 2007 alone (the last year for which records are fully tabulated), the Department of Homeland Security tracked more than 37,000 cyber-attacks - a more than 800 percent increase over 2005. The Defense Department's computers are probed hundreds of thousands of times every day, and in 2007, hackers believed to be backed by the Chinese military took down the unclassified e-mail system in the Office of the Secretary of Defense for more than a week.

Meanwhile, U.S. companies lost more than $1 trillion worth of intellectual property last year because of cyber-intrusions. The energy sector is particularly vulnerable, with global utility operations hit by an estimated 1,000 hackers annually. A major cyber-attack could result in weeks-long power outages or cause even more damage to the national economy - a prospect we can hardly afford.

In December, a cyber-attack simulation conducted by the nonpartisan Business Executives for National Security, headquartered in the District, highlighted America's vulnerability and the need for a comprehensive, national approach to cybersecurity. Over two days, more than 230 senior leaders from industry, government, Congress, academia and the military tried to respond to a simulated cyber-attack that decimated telecommunications in the Eastern United States and damaged financial institutions and other targets.

At nearly every turn, the participants encountered difficulty restoring normal operations. Their failure to plan for the attack - and the difficulty they experienced communicating with one another when the simulated attack was under way - prolonged recovery time to the point of major system failures.

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