Growing Domestic Cyber Threats : New DHS and CISA Programs Created

Growing Domestic Cyber Threats : New DHS and CISA Programs Created

Growing Domestic Cyber Threats : In mid-February, Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Director, Alejandro Mayorkas, introduced new initiatives pertaining to cybersecurity that he hopes can address the growing online threats that endanger citizens. 

Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, logistical changes in the way we do business and learn have facilitated a spike in hacking attacks globally. 

One of several new strategies that Mayorkas announced was a plan for the US to increase cybersecurity spending via Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) grants. 

Under this new plan, local government entities that receive FEMA grants must spend at least 7.5% of the money on improving cybersecurity. In the past, grant recipients only needed to spend a minimum of 5% securing against hacking threats.

Still, will this 2.5 percent mandatory increase in the use of FEMA funds be enough when hackers have successfully breached the American power grid and healthcare infrastructure?

One example of what awaits America in the event of a power grid shutdown is the suffering endured for 5 days in 2019, when Venezuela fell victim to a nationwide power outage. 

Dozens of hospital patients died as a direct result of the power outage, as many electricity generators failed. 

The majority of deaths were individuals with kidney issues who could not receive their regular dialysis sessions. But, also gunshot victims who could not be safely operated on without the electricity for proper lighting. It also affected childbirth, as dozens of pregnant women gave birth in blackout conditions, while prematurely born babies found themselves fighting for their lives in failed incubators.

While these anecdotes represent the worst-case scenarios of hacking attacks, most of the spike in hacks over the past year is actually attributable to ransomware. 

This has compelled DHS to also announce a new initiative named “The Reduce the Risk of Ransomware Campaign”, which will fall under the jurisdiction of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), a DHS sub-division. 

According to a CISA press release, “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 is a malware variant that has risen in prominence as it has become the preferred tool of hackers to turn a quick profit. It was statistically the most common online threat of 2020, according to NYC-based risk consulting firm Kroll‘s incident response data. 

They noted that ransomware was responsible for more than one-third of attacks through September 1st, 2020.

Another 2021 trend involves a rise in hacks against Mac users. For years, an old wives’ tale among techie types was that Macs were more secure against malware and viruses. However, Macs have recently become a top target of t hacking groups that distribute infections and authors of malicious code. 

In the year 2021, we have already seen over 30,000 Macs attacked by new kinds of malware including Silver Sparrow.Another strain attempts to fool victims with an alarming pop-up message that tells the users to delete well-known apps by claiming them as  malware that will damage the computer. 

Although the US government needs to stay out in front of the state-sponsored hacking groups that can potentially cause massive destruction and loss of life, it must also monitor and neutralize the activities of the small-time outfits that inflict a sizable amount of economic damages upon average citizens. 

Written by Julio Rivera

Edited by Alexander Fleiss, Hantong Wu & Calvin Ma

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 Newsmax, Townhall, American Thinker and BizPacReview.

Growing Domestic Cyber Threats