America Must Respond To This Cyber-Pearl Harbor Attack | John A. Tures

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By John A. Tures

On December 7, 1941, America was attacked at Pearl Harbor. This month, America was hit with a cyberattack which was the virtual version of another Pearl Harbor.  We have to protect ourselves, and respond with appropriate countermeasures.  Republicans and Democrats must be united on this policy.  We cannot allow apologists to undermine our response.

Earlier in December, the CyberSecurity Firm FireEye was hacked. In assessing the damage, the company discovered that hackers had penetrated software from the Texas-based SolarWinds Corporation, used by a number of government agencies.  

Our Department of Treasury, Department of Homeland Security, Department of State, Department of Energy, Department of Commerce, Department of Agriculture, and the National Institutes of Health have become the new USS Arizona, USS Oklahoma, USS West Virginia, USS California, USS Maryland, USS Tennessee, and USS Nevada.

Democrats, Republicans and Corporate CEOs recognize not only the severity of the hack and damage, but have also correctly sought to blame the Russian government for such actions.  US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, a former Kansas Republican, said “We can say pretty clearly that it was the Russians that engaged in this activity,” according to the BBC.

“The situation is developing, but the more I learn this could be our modern day, cyber equivalent of Pearl Harbor” tweeted Colorado Rep. Jason Crow.  “Our nation is under assault. This cyberattack could be the largest in our history. We don’t yet know the extent of the damage, but we know that we weren’t prepared & have our work cut out for us…We can’t wait for leadership, we need it now.”

President Donald Trump remained relatively silent on the issue throughout the week. On the weekend, he tweeted “The Cyber Hack is far greater in the Fake News Media than in actuality. I have been fully briefed and everything is well under control.  Russia, Russia, Russia is the priority chant when anything happens …”

CNN wrote “Instead of condemning the attack, or Russia, Trump wrote that he had been ‘fully briefed and everything is well under control’ — despite officials in his administration having said this week that the cyberattack ‘poses a grave risk’ to networks across both the public and private sector.” And one of those targets was the agency that controls our nuclear weapons!

Imagine if President Franklin D. Roosevelt had claimed the Japanese weren’t behind the Pearl Harbor Attack. What if FDR had claimed that everything was under control, while our battleships were in ruins and our airbase in Hawaii destroyed?  We’re being cyber-bombed now!

President-elect Joe Biden, on the other hand, vowed to make cybersecurity a “top priority” and added “We need to disrupt and deter our adversaries from undertaking significant cyberattacks in the first place.”  But Biden is about to discover it’s not so easy to do that. Just as Japan had been prepared and waging war for nearly a decade ahead of the USA, our adversary is quite formidable. Already, one of my top students is in a strong cybersecurity program in graduate school (and he’s a Republican, by the way). He and his classmates will need to be the next Band of Brothers and Sisters, undertaking the mission to protect America from this terrifying threat.

John A. Tures is a professor of political science at LaGrange College in LaGrange, Georgia.  He can be reached at [email protected]. His Twitter account is JohnTures2.