Cybersecurity experts offer advice for incoming Trump administration

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Cybersecurity experts offer advice for incoming Trump administration

The UC Berkeley Center for Long-Term Cybersecurity gave five major recommendations.

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Cybersecurity experts offer advice for incoming Trump administration

Erin Kelly , USAToday 8:11 a.m. EST November 18, 2016
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Experts from the UC Berkeley Center for Long-Term Cybersecurity offered advice for the new Trump administration.(Photo: Jacob Wackerhausen, Getty Images/iStockphoto)

WASHINGTON — The new Trump administration could better protect the nation from cyber attacks by teaming with Silicon Valley to boost the cyber workforce and creating an agency to find new ways to safeguard digital security, UC Berkeley's Center for Long-Term Cybersecurity said in recommendations unveiled Friday.

Those ideas were among five major cybersecurity suggestions that the center's experts offered during a panel discussion at the Bipartisan Policy Center. The University of California, Berkeley center has reached out to Trump's transition team to offer its advice. Trump has not yet named a cybersecurity adviser.

"The new administration has an important opportunity to change the way Americans think about cybersecurity," the center said in a short report presented by Executive Director Betsy Cooper and Faculty Director Steven Weber. "We believe cybersecurity needs to be thought of as an existential risk to core American interests and values, rising close to the level of major armed conflict and climate change."

Americans have become increasingly aware of cybersecurity threats in the wake of high-profile hacks of major government and private sector groups, including the Democratic National Committee, Yahoo, Target, and the Internal Revenue Service.

But the risk of a major cyber attack carries much darker consequences, including the disabling of the nation's electrical grid and widespread data disruption that could scramble everything from government communications to the online banking websites that many Americans rely on, Weber said.

"Just think about how much of your life is dependent on the assumption that the Internet actually works and is safe," he said.

One of the biggest challenges facing the federal government is how to recruit top cybersecurity experts, who can command higher salaries and benefits in Silicon Valley and are often reluctant to leave the West Coast. The Berkeley center recommends that the new president create a "cyber incubator" that would allow experts employed by private industry to work on national security challenges for the government for a year or two from the West Coast before returning to their regular jobs.

The center also recommended:

• creating a Cyber Advanced Research Projects Agency to focus federal dollars on developing innovative technologies to strengthen cybersecurity. Cooper said she believes Republicans, who typically favor smaller government and fewer federal agencies, could be persuaded that a new, streamlined agency would actually make the government smarter and more efficient. She said it would be comparable to former President Eisenhower creating NASA in 1958 to take space exploration out of the military bureaucracy.

• forgiving, or at least deferring, student loans for cybersecurity professionals to encourage more Americans to enter the field. The center also suggested creating special cybersecurity visas to bring in more experts from outside the U.S.

• treating cybersecurity as a fundamental part of computer literacy in the nation's schools, in much the same way that computer coding has now become a core part of the curriculum in many places.

• establishing the principle that nations are responsible for cyber attacks launched from their territories. That would help prevent governments from using "private pirates" to hack on their behalf, Weber said.

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