Cybersecurity: Protecting Our Critical Infrastructure

In popular cyberthriller movies, the hero has to stop the hackers before they can launch the nuclear bomb or unleash the deadly virus on the world. The reality, while far more mundane, is also far scarier when you stop to examine the consequences of an attack on critical, net-based infrastructure.

It seems like there is no public service, work, or utility that doesn’t rely in some way on internet connectivity. The aftermath of a hacker targeting a major international airport or the power grid for a metropolitan city can leave a web of devastation.

Imagine what would happen to the economy all across the country if every traffic light in New York City—especially around Wall Street—was intentionally taken offline, or if a ransomware attack kept the lights off indefinitely. Think about a situation where America’s E-911 service was attacked, not only preventing individuals from reaching out for help but also stopping various law enforcement agencies, first responders, and different geographic locations from communicating with each other. With the right skillset and the wrong security protocol, someone could shut down not just a power grid, but the coal plants and hydroelectric dams that supply the nation’s electricity; how long will we survive without power and clean drinking water?

Last week of National Cybersecurity Awareness Month asked us to take a good hard look at the security protocols we have in place to protect our critical infrastructure from a cyber attack. As an individual taxpaying consumer, of course, there’s not a lot you can do to ensure that these security measures are there and our way of life is protected, but you can be aware of the threat and work to make your voice heard about this priority. Raising awareness, which is the very purpose of NCSAM, means helping others on a grassroots level to understand the importance of security, and keeping the national conversation about hacking and data breaches on the front burner. You can also reach out to your elected officials at every level and voice your concern over adequate funding for cybersecurity, as well as fail-safe plans should the worst happen.

The most important aspect of being cyber-aware is knowing how a security threat can affect you at every level, from your home computer and your email address all the way up to the most classified layers of government. All of us have a vested interest in data security and the ramifications of failure.


Contact the Identity Theft Resource Center for toll-free, no-cost assistance at (888) 400-5530. For on-the-go assistance, check out the free ID Theft Help App from ITRC.

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