Opinion: Josh Hawley is protecting cybersecurity for Missourians – St. Louis Post-Dispatch

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At a time when cybersecurity threats loom over the state of Missouri, Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., has emerged as a staunch defender of his constituents’ security online. With his unwavering commitment to strengthening federal cybersecurity measures, Hawley has proven himself as a crucial voice in the fight to secure the state’s digital infrastructure.

When I served as the chief of staff to Gov. Matt Blunt, I was briefed extensively on these threats. It was a big deal back then, but today, it is an even bigger one.

In June, Missouri fell victim to one of the worst cyber attacks in its history. According to the Missouri’s Office of Administration, Information Technology Services Division, the source was quickly identified. Investigations remain ongoing.

Sen. Hawley didn’t blink. He acted swiftly, co-sponsoring the Federal Information Security Modernization Act to strengthen federal cybersecurity protocols. Among other measures, the bill will clarify the roles and responsibilities of the government agencies with cybersecurity duties and give agencies increased reporting duties when cyber attacks arise.

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This not the first time lawmakers have attempted such reforms. The last major overhaul occurred in 2014, and subsequent efforts in 2022 fell short. However, thanks to Sen. Hawley’s leadership, it appears that a long overdue federal update will finally come in short order, as the Oversight Committee just passed his brainchild weeks ago — likely fast-tracking it for a roll call vote on the congressional floor.

The urgency of moving this reform could not be overstated.

Since the aforementioned incident in June, Missouri has fallen victim to a slew of other cyber security breaches, including but not limited to one that took an entire school district in the St. Louis suburbs offline and another that compromised some of the state’s hospital data.

Even the Office of Personnel Management — the government’s lead human resources agency and federal workforce manager — is not immune from these problems. The agency was responsible for one of the largest government cybersecurity breaches in history, and a February report released by the Government Accountability Office showed that things have not gotten much better at OPM nearly a decade later.

This isn’t just the case at OPM — it is the case at most government agencies, which can’t seem to keep their cyber security protocols up to speed with the rapid growth of the modern-day digital age.

As the Internet continues to grow, so is the private sector’s cyber security measures. In fact, global spending on security and risk management is set to increase by over 14 percent this year alone, with the cybersecurity market’s value expected to climb by over 2.5 times its 2023 valuation in just six years. Unfortunately, the same can’t be said of the government’s data protection measures, which remain behind the curve.

That is why many of Sen. Hawley’s colleagues, including House Oversight Committee Chair Rep. James Comer, R-Ky., and Homeland Security Chair Rep. Mark Green, R-Tenn., are taking steps to question the government’s cyber security practices.

Some of them are even pushing the government to begin using more competent private sector companies (especially when it comes to hiring new government workers given how much sensitive information changes hands during the hiring process) instead of the hackneyed government-run systems of years’ past.

Rep. Green recently held the Department of Homeland Security’s feet to the fire for not doing enough to protect federal agencies from cyber attacks. In a letter, he asked the committee, “How is the Department reviewing any cloud services provided by other federal agencies for services to determine if they meet the same standards and requirements a commercial provider must meet?”

The committee having answers to these questions like this one is important, because as Chair Comer put it in a recent hearing on the OPM’s abuses, “Without the public’s trust in knowing that the federal bureaucracy can — and will — be held accountable for delivery of service, we will continue to see poor performers erode public confidence in the entire federal workforce at the expense of those federal employees who are putting forth their best efforts to serve.”

“It’s important that we continue to ask tough questions and reflect on how we can do better,” he continued, “because that is when we begin to see real reform.”

Indeed. Increased privatization is likely the answer, but it’s not an answer that will come immediately. Until that time comes, though, Missourians can rest easy knowing that Sen. Hawley is working to keep their data safe and secure in the government systems that are currently in place. For that, we all should be grateful.

Martin is the president of the Phyllis Schlafly Eagles.

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