With a Major Cybersecurity Job Shortage, We Must Act Like We Are at War

August 24, 2015

Darren Guccione

Recently, the Internal Revenue Service revealed the data breach that happened in May via the agency’s “Get Transcript” program affected three times as many users as originally reported -- 334,000 accounts in all. The new information was discovered in a deeper analysis over a wider time period, and taxpayers who were potentially exposed will get letters from the IRS over the coming days.

This announcement comes on the heels of the massive OPM breach, shining a spotlight on the government’s failure to protect its networks. While the quantity of records hacked in the IRS breach pales in comparison to OPM, the type of information exposed is potentially just as damaging -- Social Security numbers, taxpayer ID numbers, work history, income sources -- all of these are available on IRS tax forms.

In both the OPM and IRS breaches, the government’s “lag-time” in fully discovering the impact was extremely drawn-out. The extent of the IRS data breach is just now becoming clear three months after it happened, while the OPM breach took the government four months to detect any hint of malicious activity. While thinking about these breaches, it’s important to look at the greater issue at hand: We are in the midst of a cyberwar and the bad guys are winning.  

Recently, businesses and governments all over the world have acknowledged this disturbing fact with “quick fixes” that haven’t yet addressed the larger problem. We live in a world with hackers who are capable of breaking into all but the most highly sophisticated systems. Much like the United States on the morning of Dec. 8, 1941, the day after Pearl Harbor, businesses and governments have had to acknowledge they’ve been caught by surprise and are unprepared to defend themselves in cyberwarfare.

For evidence that the U.S. government is undermanned against hackers, we can look to the fact that the unemployment rate for cybersecurity professionals in Washington is 0 percent. This might seem like a great thing for people in this line of work, but it’s a warning that the good guys simply don’t have enough troops to win this war.

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