Stronger Safeguards Needed for National Guard Cyber Teams

In recent news, a cyber security case against Michigan-based software services company Konnech has been dropped by Los Angeles District Attorney George Gascon due to concerns regarding the “pace of the investigation,” and a new team has been assembled to determine if any criminal activity occurred. This comes at a time when cyber threats have become increasingly prominent in our society and raises questions about how effective National Guard Cyber Teams are at protecting American networks from malicious actors.

Concerns over these teams were raised more than a decade ago when Cyber Teams were first proposed as potential ‘miniature NSAs’ for governors of each state. Having direct access to sensitive data from both CISA and the NSA, these teams could be used to monitor political opponents or meddle in elections. Consequently, recent events led to discussions about necessary safeguards for future use.

Unfortunately, the Konnech case brought these conversations to the forefront as prosecutors said that the company was storing poll workers’ personal information on computer servers in China. This activity is against U.S. law, and raises major security issues since foreign actors could potentially access sensitive American data and cause irreparable damage to our national security.

It appears that network traffic can occur without being noticed by National Guard Cyber Teams, CISA (Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency), or NSA (National Security Agency). This is incredibly worrying, as cyber threats have become increasingly aggressive and frequent over the last ten years.

The National Guard’s triple layer of security support, high-profile monitoring, and close collaboration between cyber security agencies must be met to ensure that this nation’s cyber infrastructure is protected from malicious activity. In the wake of recent events, it is clear that more robust safeguards are needed. When it comes to protecting our networks, speed and accuracy are vital. Although many of the implements look great on paper, the Konnech case has raised serious questions about the effectiveness of these measures. The protocols are often one step behind today’s advanced cyber security threats.

The nation has already seen first-hand what cyber threats can do with the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) breach back in 2015 that revealed more than 21 million records of security clearances to China and forced the government into a $63 million lawsuit payout over this event. More recently, the Solar Winds attack may be even more detrimental to the country than the OPM breach.

These events are a stark reminder of the need for better security and more stringent regulations. In addition, Cyber Teams with access to sensitive information must have stronger safeguards in place to prevent malicious actors from taking control of our infrastructure and influencing election outcomes. For Americans to feel secure, organizations like CISA, NSA, and National Guard Cyber Teams must collaborate to build stronger systems that can recognize, isolate and eject threats from networks before they cause further damage.

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