Time for a Four Star Cyber General

Cyber is everywhere in our lives today and it is our greatest strategic weakness.

In 2015, the FBI and Department of Homeland Security determined Chinese sources, likely the Chinese Army, hacked the federal government’s Office of Personnel Management stealing 21.5 million applications for security clearances. Not only were vital statistics like social security number and credit history vacuumed up but, also, family relationships and social networks. Not even such a blatant and dangerous data security breach spurred the government beyond holding a couple of face saving Congressional hearings. —

Wikileaks disclosed information hacked from the CIA that exposed our ability to track terrorists through their cell phones. The result tipped off the terrorists who’ve returned to more primitive but harder to track methods of communication.

Global “ransom ware” attacks on hospitals have done little to prompt even a single Congressional hearing.

Equifax Credit Bureau was so careless with data they collect from all Americans involuntarily that hackers roamed undetected through their huge credit databases for nearly four months stealing the information of nearly half of the American people – using — what appears to be — a specific set of selection criteria. The government’s response: Consumers can sue Equifax.

The Security and Exchange Commission’s EDGAR System was hacked a year ago (August, 2016). It is likely that some person or persons or country unknown had access to the financial reporting data of every publically traded American or multi-national corporation before that information was made public, as required by law. Congress and the American people were not told until the appointment of a new SEC Chairman in September, 2017.

For almost a year, hackers were able to use (or sell)”insider trader information” to trade on specific stocks before the company’s public announcement of earnings. Such trading is a federal crime.

Just last week, the Department of Homeland Security released a list of 21 states where Russians successfully or semi-successfully hacked into state election systems prior to the 2016 Presidential election.

Taken together these are hostile acts against the nation and the people of the United States – as surely as if those bits and bytes were bullets.

In this war of bits, bytes, and the dark web, there is no “frontline” and Congress is not doing its job: Building an army to protect you and I – the American people – from a nefarious global network of economic terrorists.

No American is Safe:

Almost every aspect of daily American life is connected to the World Wide Web.

When you:

  • Apply for a job
  • Apply for a mortgage or rental approval
  • Watch television
  • Shop – online and off
  • Buy groceries at the local grocery store
  • Dial 911 an emergency
  • Catch up with friends
  • Make a medical appointment
  • Pay the basic monthly bills
  • Save for retirement etc.

The details of every transaction are collected by numerous public and private interests – irrespective of your Constitutional right to privacy. Under the best of circumstances, this data is summarized and sold to better “target” you as a customer.

In the hands of a criminal this data can be used to steal your identity. It can be used to blackmail you into – for example — spying against your employer, your neighbors or friends. It might allow a health insurance company illegal access to your genetic profile.

Protect Our National Infrastructure

There is no part of the infrastructure that we all depend on that does not, also, depend on technology:

  • Weather forecasting
  • Water storage and transport
  • Power generation and transport
  • Farming
  • Air travel
  • Rail travel
  • Ocean and river craft
  • Your family car
  • Corner gas station
  • Hospitals
  • Police Stations
  • Jails
  • Military Installations and Military Hardware etc.

It is not classified information that our government, private and public utilities and other quasi-government agencies have acknowledged their vulnerability to cyber attack.

Stop for a moment and think what the consequences would be if, for example, your electric utility provider were held for ransom by a hostile government or non-state-actor. Denied electric power, many activities we take for granted would quickly stop. What would the social consequences be if gasoline pumps stopped pumping, grocery stores couldn’t refrigerate or even checkout your groceries, ATMs could not dispense cash, and credit card transactions could not be verified across a wide section of America.

Every automaker and others including Apple and Google are working on the “inevitable” driverless car — navigation via the Internet. WHAT IF a terrorist or state actor hacked into the driverless car fleet and turned our interstate highways into real-time bumper cars?

CYBER WARFARE IS NOT STAR WARS

Several states have started to regulate autonomous vehicles, remote home security and other technologies that could put Americans at risk. Not so Congress.

Congress is worried about other things: for example, to build or not to build a wall on our southern border.

Daily reports of massive data breaches, repeated theft of Americans personal data by criminals and hostile state actors, over several years, haven’t prompted Congress or the President – past or present – to take the necessary steps to protect every day Americans from this new and potent threat.

Congress and state governments have been repeatedly briefed on the vulnerabilities of our power grid and communication systems to cyber attack. But none of those briefings have moved Congress to debate or legislate additional cyber security measures outside the reactive Homeland Security Department’s Computer Emergency Reaction Term.

It is well past time that Congress acts pro-actively to establish a cabinet level CYBER SECURITY Department to coordinate all military, intelligence, law enforcement and private sector cyber security initiatives.

Every American has a right to expect Congress to take all steps necessary to protect the life, liberty, privacy and security of every citizen.

As much as we expect our military to be one step ahead of our potential enemies – so must our cyber sleuths.

Graphic courtesy of us.123rf.com

Banking for 21st Century American Infrastructure

Banking for 21st Century American Infrastructure

I do Pilates every day and go to a Pilate’s class 3 times a week not because I like it – but because I know it’s essential to maintaining strong bones and muscles (the human infrastructure) over a life time.

I choke down two HUGE calcium pills each morning for the same reason.

Not bragging – but comparatively – my infrastructure’s in a lot better shape than America’s.

Just as the human body hangs on a strong skeletal muscular core – the USA’s economy hangs on a strong infrastructure.

That’s a problem.

Infrastructure Drives Productivity

Every hour each individual worker wastes commuting on overcrowded highways reduce our economic productivity decreases and pollution increases in our atmosphere.

An antiquated passenger and freight railway system delivers products to market too slowly at too high a price and serves too few passengers in a small number of commuter corridors.

Our international airports are the first impression we make on foreign tourists and foreign business people – seeking to do business in the United States. Too often – even in Washington, New York and Los Angeles – our airports look less like the gateway to the world’s largest economy and more like the bus station in the 1969 movie Midnight Cowboy.

When portions of our electric grid fail, commerce stops. The national economy shrinks.

Drought and floods both result in costly economic dislocation.

Infrastructure is a Big Capital Expense

We know that our electrical grid, water storage and transport systems are at risk of attack from saboteurs and/or hackers.

There is no effective urban evacuation plan in earthquake prone California. Our road system is inadequate, at risk of failing in a major earthquake and not a reliable corridor of escape.

Baton Rouge flooded for lack of a by-pass canal.

But no one is doing anything to solve the problem

Why? It costs money.

America Needs an Infrastructure Bank

It is time to charter a USA Infrastructure Bank with sufficient capital to meet the estimated demand.

The bank would use its capital to make loans to Federal Highway System, states, localities, airports, Amtrak, and publicly owned utility providers to fund infrastructure refurbishment and upgrades.

The loans would be repaid from taxes, bonds issued by government entities and service fees paid by users.

Hillary Clinton has proposed such a bank as part of her Presidential campaign. Three bills were introduced in Congress in 2015 but never made it out of committee.

These proposals would charter the bank as a WHOLLY OWNED GOVERNMENT CORPORATION.

The problem is we already have one and know the consequences.

The US Post Office is a wholly owned government corporation!

An Economic Shot-in-the-Arm

Rebuilding, modernizing and securing our infrastructure would give the US economy a huge boost.

The American Association of Civil Engineers estimates that needed infrastructure upgrades could add up to $3 trillion by 2020:

  • Create millions of new “skilled jobs” with good wages.
  • Boost productivity by speeding people and goods to market at a lower costs
  • Encourage innovation, creativity and entrepreneurship – leading to new industries and new global opportunities
  • Increase our national security and protect the homeland.

Who is going to pay for it without adding to the National Debt?

Let’s Make a Deal with Big Business

The Treasury estimates that US multi-national corporations are holding approximately $2.3 trillion in profits off-shore to avoid the world’s highest business tax rate.

Repatriating these profits could generate as much as $8 trillion in U.S. domestic economic activity.

This economic elixir is going to remain off-shore as long as the US Treasury demands 35 percent tax-off-the-top.

Why not offer these tax payers a deal they can’t refuse — one-time tax of 15 percent on only half of their off-shore profits in return for lending the other half to the newly chartered USA Infrastructure Bank for a fixed period of time?

To protect their “investments” the corporations (for example Apple, Google, Facebook, Merck, etc.) would be granted the majority of seats on the new bank’s Board of Directors — in ratio to their contribution.

  • The corporations would receive interest on their “investment” in the bank.
  • The corporations could use the money exactly as they do today – collateral for bank borrowing to finance operations.
  • “Investment” would be returned to the corporations after a specified period of time.

Don’t Upgrade — Innovate

Instead of replacing 20th century structures and systems with more “modern” facilities, a Board dominated by the most innovative business leaders in the world would move to capitalize opportunities currently in the design and development stage: Innovative thinkers will anticipate the future — asking questions that lead to a merger of 21st and 22nd century infrastructure.

  • How will driverless cars change the way we drive and build roads?
  • Should we invest in building high speed railways or jump to Hyperloop connections between major cities?
  • Can we turn oceans into environmental friendly sources of water and electricity versus building more reservoirs?

This kind of thinking increases the chances of making major technological breakthroughs exponentially. Innovation can create new global commercial opportunities for American entrepreneurs!

A partnership between business and government can demonstrate to politicians and bureaucrats the value of thinking strategically rather than tactically — the first step toward the 21st century American citizens want and deserve.

What does the USA have to lose?