Opinion – Dave Hatter: Cybersecurity threats pose a challenge, and one adversary stands above the rest

In an era where digital interconnectedness defines our daily lives, the significance of cybersecurity cannot be overstated. The proliferation of cyber threats poses a formidable challenge to individuals, organizations and our critical infrastructure, and there is one adversary standing above the rest in this fight: The People’s Republic of China (PRC).

By infiltrating foreign networks to steal intellectual property and trade secrets, the PRC seeks to gain an unfair advantage in the global economic arena. This not only undermines the competitiveness of other nations’ industries but also jeopardizes innovation and stifles economic growth on a global scale.

Speaking in April at Vanderbilt University , FBI Director Christopher Way warned about the threat China poses saying, “The PRC [People’s Republic of China] has made it clear that it considers every sector that makes our society run as fair game in its bid to dominate on the world stage, and that it’s plan is to land low blows against civilian infrastructure to try to induce panic and break America’s will to resist.” And reports show that attacks on critical infrastructure are increasing, including healthcare and local governments, putting us all in the cross hairs.

Dave Hatter (Photo provided)

This agenda isn’t new, the PRC has long been a threat to America. National Cyber Director Harry Coker at the Information Technology Industry Council’s Intersect Tech Policy Summit said, “Their intentions drive home a point so many of us have known for years: In cyberspace, the private sector and the American people themselves are on the front lines.” It is increasingly critical that we fortify our defenses and heighten our vigilance to safeguard our digital infrastructure and, by extension, our national security and global stability.

Unfortunately, many people today don’t think about the information they are sharing, who has access to that information, and how those organizations may or may not be protecting it. And many small businesses still believe they won’t be a target because they are too small and don’t have anything worth stealing. This is simply not the case; organizations and individuals are increasingly targeted for attack.

But the threat posed by China goes well beyond people using “password” as their password. Individuals and organizations can do everything in their power to protect their information and their systems, but if our government officials are not working to protect our infrastructure, we are all at significant risk.

That’s what happened last May when Norton Healthcare suffered a ransomware attack and 2.5 million people were potentially impacted. I wrote about this attack and the one seen at Murray State last year in an opinion piece last September. While the threat of the PRC will not go away any time soon, I know that many local leaders and communities take this threat seriously and are working hard to protect the future of this Commonwealth and our nation.

For example, this past May, the Kenton County Mayor’s Group met with Kentucky Senator Chris McDaniel (R-Ryland Heights) to discuss cybersecurity, income tax and the state’s future. These are the necessary steps we need to take to safeguard our communities. As Mayor of Fort Wright, Kentucky, I shared about my goal of implementing a cross-institutional group like the Ohio Cyber Collaboration Committee to address cybersecurity concerns here in Kentucky. A coalition of interested parties are now taking steps toward creating a similar program here and I’m proud of my fellow elected officials and cybersecurity professionals for helping lead the charge here and our neighboring states.

It is imperative that we work together to remain vigilant and adaptive in the face of evolving and increasingly dangerous cyber threats. This entails continuously evaluating, updating and fortifying our cyber defenses, enhancing our capabilities for threat detection and attribution, and cultivating a culture of cybersecurity awareness and resilience.

By bolstering our cyber defenses, we can effectively mitigate the risks posed by China’s cyber activities and ensure a safer, more secure future for all.

Dave Hatter is an award-winning technology leader with over 30 years of software development, cybersecurity, and technology project management experience. He has also served as the Mayor of Fort Wright, Kentucky since 2015.

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