Silicon Valley Sabotage a Window to Vulnerability
April 13, 2009 - 3:43pm ET
Last week’s communication disruption in Silicon Valley—caused by vandals simply cutting fiber-optics—calls to attention the susceptibility of America's infrastructure. From cyberspace to our ports and plants, major gaps in security still exist. The Bush promise to "keep America safe" appears to be all but hollow in light of the following persistent gaps in security.
Here are some areas that are cause for concern:
• Information. It has been found that cyberattacks “do more real damage every day to the economic health and national security of the United States than any other threat.” A recent GAO report brings to light the extreme risk of attacks faced by both the government and private sectors and how steps toward safeguarding networks are only in infancy. Security experts emphasize that more funding, regulation and coordination are essential.
• Ports. Despite significant improvements since 9/11, the TSA is able to inspect only around 50% of cargo on passenger aircraft and lacks the resources and staff to achieve the 100% inspection of cargo required by 2010.
• Only nine compliance inspectors are working abroad to enforce cargo inspection standards, yet international cargo makes up more than 40% of all port traffic.
• At seaports it is unknown what percentage of cargo is secure, while numerous challenges continue to prevent the required scanning of all incoming cargo.
• Mass Transit. According to the American Public Transportation Association more than $6 billion in additional security funding is needed to adequately protect the nation’s transit systems. In 2009, Homeland Security will only assign 100 surface transportation security inspectors to protect our nation’s mass transit and railway networks, compared to the tens of thousands assigned for air travel.
• Plants. Although physical security at nuclear facilities has markedly improved, other plants remain exposed. The Tennessee Valley Authority—the largest public provider of electricity in the nation—has failed numerous physical and cybersecurity inspections.
• Weak regulation by the Department of Homeland Security leaves safety gaps at over 15,000 chemical plants nationwide. Over 90% of these facilities transport hazardous chemicals by rail or truck, placing 80 million Americans at risk of a chemical attack.
Unfortunately, the policy with domestic security too often is wait and see (that nothing terrible happens). The Obama administration has committed billions more to strengthening domestic security, though that money could go further if it were coupled with stronger legislation and tighter regulation. It is now largely up to Congress to enact stricter laws, such as the Cybersecurity Act recently introduced in the Senate. Looking forward, key chemical regulations expire this year and will surely spark a battle between environmental groups and lobbyists paid for by large chemical corporations such as DuPont.
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Views expressed on this page are those of the authors and not necessarily those of Campaign for America's Future or Institute for America's Future