Cyber security was one of the defining topics of the 2016 presidential election. On both sides of the aisle, politicians - and their constituents - have agreed to prioritize improving federal cyber security. With threats to many government departments happening on a daily basis, the government must be constantly vigilant about protecting not only its secrets, but also sensitive data pertaining to U.S. citizens. In the future, it is quite likely that more cyber security professionals will find work with the federal government. Keep reading to take a look the landscape of cyber security as it stands in 2016:
Notable cyber security incidents in 2016
Overall, 2016 was a fairly typical year in terms of cyber attacks, hacks and data breaches. In fact, the federal government is almost always under attack from cyber threats, though most instances are small in nature. According to Wired Magazine, some government agencies are hit with over 10 million digital attacks each month, though few actually manage to break through.
IRS hack: In January, the Internal Revenue Service was hacked and over 100,000 electronic filing pins were stolen, reported PC World. These are the unique numbers that taxpayers use to file their taxes electronically. In the previous year, hackers successfully made away with the personal information of over 300,000 taxpayers, including their home addresses and social security numbers. Such information could be used to commit identity theft. The IRS monitors all hacked accounts for irregularities and further suspicious activity.
"Some agencies are hit with over 10 million cyber attacks a month."
Federal Reserve hacks exposed: In June, Reuters used the Freedom of Information Act to obtain cyber security reports from the Federal Reserve which indicated the Fed had been hacked over 50 times between 2011 and 2015. Four of the cyber attacks were recorded as acts of espionage, according to the source.
FDIC hack revelations: In July, a congressional report revealed that China had hacked the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation over the course of three years. The report also stated that the FDIC had attempted to cover up the hacks when investigators attempted to review the FDIC's cyber security policies. As CNN noted, the FDIC is able to access sensitive personal information from over 4,500 banks and other financial institutions.
The challenge of government cyber security
In February, the federal government issued its Cybersecurity National Action Plan which highlighted the importance of security in a world where all of the major political players have teams of hackers bent on stealing information from government branches as well as the private industry. For instance, groups like China's notorious Unit 61398 attempt - and sometimes succeed - to steal trade secrets from large organizations, according to Wired.
"Our nation faces significant threats to cyber security, making it paramount to deploy the best minds to get ahead of potential threats," says Mike Boyles, Division Manager of Beacon Hill's National Security Division in Washington, D.C. "While there have been great strides made in the cyber defense realm, the environment is ever-changing – necessitating the need for agility and the flexibility to act quickly as needs arise."
The action plan gave more funding and oversight to federal cyber security, but there's still more work to be done. Forbes Magazine reported that, in January, there were over 200,000 open listings for cyber security jobs across the U.S. In the coming years, the demand for highly skilled cyber security experts will only continue to grow.
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