In the modern world, threats to national security have become more common and harder to identify. While in-person military operations are still key to our security, there are many battles that aren’t as easily seen, because they are being fought on the digital front. And these digital conflicts can be trickier — difficult to detect, hard to anticipate, and not easily understood by those without cybersecurity expertise.
With the formation of CISA in 2018 and the modernization of DISA in recent years, the United States has been working to protect the nation on this digital frontier. While the U.S. is taking steps in the right direction when it comes to cybersecurity, it has been a slow and arduous process to get here.
Creation of CISA
A key development in the United States’ cybersecurity position was the creation of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, or CISA. CISA was created in 2018, under the direction of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). Previous to CISA’s creation, DHS’s National Protection and Programs Directorate (NPPD) managed almost all cybersecurity-related matters for the DHS.
CISA’s mission is to “build the national capacity to defend against cyber attacks” and it also “works with the federal government to provide cybersecurity tools, incident response services, and assessment capabilities to safeguard the ‘.gov’ networks.”
Since its inception, CISA has launched initiatives to solve supply chain threats to upcoming 5G networks, improve election security, enhance government network security, and inform the country about cybersecurity risks from foreign adversaries.
In just 2 years, CISA has modernized the DHS’s cybersecurity positioning and provided leadership and education to government entities and the American people.
The Deparment of Defense (DoD) has its own arm to protect the U.S. on the cyber front, and it is the U.S. Defense Information Systems Agency, or DISA. DISA was technically started back in 1960, when it was the Defense Communications Agency (DCA), which managed the Defense Communications System. It was reorganized in 1991 and renamed DISA to more “clearly identify DISA as a combat support agency.” At this time, they also developed the framework that would become the Defense Information System Network (DISN).
DISA has been modernized several times, including a recent update that is key to the cybersecurity of the DoD. DISA released a three-fold strategic plan for 2021 and 2022, pushing to focus on cyber defense, cloud computing, and Defense Enterprise Office Solutions.
The COVID-19 pandemic has forced many to work from home, including those working for the DoD. This has increased the need for cloud computing and enhanced cyber defense. DISA also indicated that they are implementing a zero-trust architecture, which improves their cybersecurity posture even more.
Cyber Threats to the United States
All of these advancements are helpful and extremely necessary. The nation is being attacked by cyber attackers on every front, and the U.S. is right to try to protect itself. Here are just a few of the examples of cyber attacks against the United States:
Russia has been one of our most formidable adversaries on the cyber front. This past October, Russian-sponsored hackers were caught trying to break into U.S. state and local government computer networks — and were successful in two instances. Russian actors have also been discovered trying to steal information about COVID-19 vaccine development.
China has also been busy at work hacking the United States. In September, CISA reported through the FBI that Chinese hackers were using publicly available information about flaws in the system to target the U.S. government. CISA didn’t specify which agencies were attacked or what the damage was, but that they have infiltrated across “many sectors.” In addition, the FBI chief reported on the many cyber attacks that Chinese hackers were implementing against U.S. businesses, calling it “one of the largest transfers of wealth in human history.”
Iran has become a formidable adversary on the cyber front, and is becoming more of a threat to the U.S. every day. Just in September, state-sponsored Iranian hackers were indicted for hacking U.S. satellite companies. The FBI also reported that Iranian hackers were targeting state election websites and accessing voter data.
North Korea has repeatedly been a cyber threat to the United States. The U.S. Department of the Treasury has implemented sanctions targeting three North Korean state-sponsored hacking groups responsible for hacking the U.S. critical infrastructure. North Korean hackers have also been found to steal money by conducting fraudulent money transfers and hacking ATMs.
The Importance of Secure Communications
With many nations threatening the cybersecurity of the U.S. government and its citizens, it is extremely important that the government protects not only its stored data, but also its communications.
U.S. Senator Ron Wyden has been a trailblazer for secure government communications. One example is last May when he published a letter addressed to Congress security officials detailing the vulnerabilities in the phone lines between the House and the Senate.
CISA has long recognized that partnering with the private sector can be extremely beneficial when it comes to cybersecurity. As they say, “these partnerships create an environment to share critical threat information, risk mitigation, and other vital information and resources.” Proper cybersecurity isn’t done in a vacuum — it is established with many parties working together, looking for vulnerabilities, and finding solutions as a team.
Wickr — The Ideal Secure Communication Platform
Long before CISA and DISA were focusing on implementing a zero trust architecture, Wickr was developing a user-friendly collaboration platform built with security top of mind. The result is a robust system that has all of the functionalities your team needs while still providing complete security, full compliance, and giving you total control. Learn more about the Wickr platform and how it can secure and transform your communications.