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Will DHS & CISA’s New Programs Be Enough to Keep Americans Safe Online? (Opinion)

Good question!

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In late February, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and new Director, Alejandro Mayorkas, announced a number of new initiatives intended to improve American cybersecurity, in hopes that they will help address the glowing global threats facing Americans online.

DHS, which is still somewhat in the process of transitioning to a new administration, inherits the evolving threats brought about because of the practical changes to business and education that have come as the COVID-19 pandemic took hold on the globe. Our new telecommuting and online education culture have led to a major surge in hacking attacks internationally.

Among the new strategies that Mayorkas has talked up in the past 2 weeks is a plan to increase cybersecurity spending through Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) grants. This strategy calls for state and local governments that receive FEMA grants to spend at a minimum 7.5% of the money on improving cybersecurity. In the past, grant recipients would only be required to spend a 5% minimum of the money against cyber threats.

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When considering the gravity of the current situation, with major attacks like the SolarWinds breach being reported in the past several months, this initiative seems to fall somewhat flat. A skinny 2.5 percent increase in the use of FEMA grants isn’t really much, especially for a country that has already seen foreign powers successfully hack into its power grid and other critical segments of its healthcare and industrial sector.

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A large-scale hack against the US power grid would create a nightmare scenario on many levels. Look no further than the chaos created in the five-day period in 2019 when socialist Venezuela faced such a situation.

Dozens of hospitalized Venezuelans died as a result of the outage, as many hospital power generators, which can’t be counted on to be 100% reliable, would fail. The majority of the dead were kidney failure patients who failed to receive dialysis treatments and shooting victims that could not be saved by surgery in the dark conditions.

In addition, pregnant Venezuelan women were forced to give birth in the dark, while many prematurely born babies fought to live in failing incubators.

While the constant threat of massive devastation hangs over America, the US is also facing a rise in hacking activity, specifically ransomware, so DHS has also announced an initiative they call “The Reduce the Risk of Ransomware Campaign,” which will be handled by the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency or CISA, which is a sub-division of DHS.

According to a CISA press release announcing the program, it is “a focused, coordinated and sustained effort to encourage public and private sector organizations to implement best practices, tools and resources that can help them mitigate this cybersecurity risk and threat,”

Ransomware attacks are used by hackers looking for a fast profit and were the most commonly seen online threat of 2020, according to risk consulting firm Kroll‘s cyber incident response data, which indicated that ransomware was responsible for more than one-third of cyber-attacks through September 1, 2020.

Another change in the cybersphere for 2021 has been a rise in hacks targeting Mac computers. Macs, which were mistakenly thought to be virus and malware-proof, are now being targeted heavily by hackers.

In fact, reports surfaced in late February that over 30,000 Mac computers were attacked by new strains of malware, including Silver Sparrow and another strain that works by tricking victims with a phony pop-up message that states that many of the well-known utilities and apps found on the computer are actually malware and will cause damage on the Mac. This message offers to move the app or utility to the trash bin but doing that will not solve the problem.

Americans rely on DHS, CISA and other associated agencies and sub-divisions to keep them safe in a world that is increasingly dependent on computing and online communication. While the average Joe may not be the high leverage target that a state-sponsored online terror cell may target, there is certainly no shortage of smaller hacking syndicates that turn a considerable amount of profit by hacking average citizens.

Julio Rivera is a business and political strategist, the Editorial Director for Reactionary Times, and a political commentator and columnist. His writing, which is focused on cybersecurity and politics, has been published by websites including The Hill, Newsmax, The Washington Times, Real Clear Politics, Townhall, American Thinker and many others.

Opinion

DC Statehood Incoming: House Set to Vote Within Days

Biden and his team are wasting no time setting up ways to stack the electoral deck in their favor.

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Joe Biden and his cohorts in the Democratic Party are doing everything in their power to never lose another election again, and they are doing so with all the subtlety and grace of a three-legged hyena that stepped into a yellow-jacket nest. First and foremost, there are their recently-revealed plans to pack the Supreme Court with several new justices during Joe Biden’s first term. Now they’re looking to make good on their long-held pipe dream of making Washington DC its own state…and they are wasting no time. The House of Representatives will vote Tuesday on whether to make Washington, D.C., a State. The House Oversight Committee, chaired by Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), voted the bill, H.R. 51, out of committee by a vote of 25-19 to create D.C. statehood Wednesday. But there are likely constitutional issues at play here. The ultimate argument seems to be whether the 23rd Amendment guarantees the federal Capitol at least three electors in presidential elections, Rep. Any Biggs (R-AZ) suggested Wednesday. Biggs’ view is supported by legal scholars, who opposed D.C. statehood’s feasibility without a Constitutional amendment to the 23rd Amendment. The Office of Legal Counsel in 2007 believed it was unconstitutional, the Justice Department under former President Reagan and former President Carter stated the transformation was unconstitutional, and so did Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, when he sat on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals. The move is highly controversial, and twenty-two state attorney generals have already sent a stern letter warning President Joe Biden about the danger of moving forward.

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News

Russia’s Invasion of Ukraine Appears Imminent, as Putin Blocks Off Black Sea

Russia is turning reckless, and Americans are wondering if Joe Biden has the spine to deal with it.

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Despite the mainstream media’s insistence that Donald Trump was some sort of Russian puppet, allowing Vladimir Putin to do as he pleases, it appears that the Russian leader is misbehaving far more dramatically with US President Joe Biden behind the Resolute Desk. This curious bit of political fodder aside, it certainly does appear as though the US, and perhaps some of her allies, are going to be forced into dealing with a reckless Russia in the coming days. More than 100,000 Russian troops in assault vehicles painted with “invasion stripes” were headed to Ukraine’s border Wednesday, intensifying fears of war between the neighboring nations. The advancing force includes 1,300 battle tanks, 3,700 drones, 1,300 artillery and mortar units and 380 multiple launch rocket systems, according to documents leaked to the Daily Mirror. Tensions between the countries have been escalating following Russia’s annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea territory in 2014, an attempt by Moscow to keep NATO away from its borders. Ukraine is not a member of NATO, but support for the organization has risen in recent years, and the country is allied with many NATO nations — including the U.S. The stripes were an important piece of the puzzle. The appearance of painted stripes on Russian armored vehicles headed to the front lines reminded military experts of similar stripes on tanks used by the Soviet army during the 1968 invasion of Czechoslovakia, the Mirror reports. The stripes are used as a deterrent to friendly fire. President Joe Biden sent US Warships to the Black Sea as a deterrent, only to have Russia then limit access to the area while forcefully demanding that the US stand down.  

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