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Cyber security must be priority in planners’ minds

It wasn’t all that long ago that cyber security was something people doing top secret work for the Pentagon worried about but few others this side of the intelligence community paid it much mind.

That’s not the case anymore as the tentacles from hackers, professional and otherwise, have reached into virtually every government agency, business and even at home, an expert said in Marquette last week. And it’s anyone’s guess how bad it will get going forward.

“It’s not just international. It’s not just about countries today. It’s about companies, non-governmental organizations, terrorists and various skilled individuals,” international attorney and strategic consultant Sean Kanuck told an audience at the Economic Club of Marquette County. “I use the word ‘risk’ because like anything else, with functionality comes risks, vulnerability and opportunity. It’s risk, it’s not security. It’s something to be managed and mitigated.”

Kanuck should know. He spent more than 5 years at the U.S. Office of the Director of National Intelligence in Washington, D.C., dealing with these kinds of problems.

He suggested Congress lean toward a risk-based approach and think like “the attacker” to determine an appropriate risk management assessment.

“Who is trying to take what from you, and why? Is it a business competitor seeking your intellectual property, is a terrorist seeking to cause casualties by bringing down networks at a hospital?” Kanuck asked.

After all is said and done, Kanuck said if it’s connected to the internet — and virtually everything, from the power grid to weapons systems to medical treatment devices, is — it’s hackable. And that puts great power into the hands of our adversaries. The Russian manipulation of the 2016 election via Facebook and other platforms is evidence of that.

So what can be done? Improve the nation’s defenses by fielding better primary systems (or those protecting the power grid, medical care facilities or private residences) would be a good start. Remaining vigilant and understanding that any system has vulnerabilities is another. Bottom line: The web is the not-so-new frontier that will improve lives through the instant exchange of information. But it has a dark, dangerous side, too.

The smart individuals, companies, countries will realize that and take the appropriate steps.