SZABO: Biden’s Cybersecurity Failures Put Americans at Risk While Criminals Run Free

Carl Szabo NetChoice
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Bad actors are misusing digital tools to aid in their criminal activities, and Americans find themselves at an unprecedented crossroads, with many unable to even get prescriptions fulfilled due to a recent foreign-agent hack of United Healthcare. Cyberattacks, hacking and fraud are escalating and carving a swath of destruction across the country — and the threats are only getting worse. 

Ninety-seven percent of organizations have reported an increase in cyber threats since the onset of the Russia-Ukraine war. In 2023, Americans lost a record $10 billion to fraud, breaking the prior record of $8.8 billion set in 2022.

 It’s clear we’re facing a tidal wave of digital malfeasance. 

This is not a new problem. Back in 2021, foreign agents hacked the Colonial Pipeline, effectively shutting down oil access on the East Coast. In 2022, over 1,300 hacks of hospitals and other essential facilities resulted in over $100 million in ransom payouts — not to mention an additional attack that resulted in 2.5 million students’ Social Security numbers being stolen.

Yet amid this growing crisis, the Biden administration’s response has been tepid at best. While cybercriminals grow more audacious, the federal response under President Joe Biden has been characterized by a glaring absence of action, leaving Americans to grapple with the consequences. 

Today, less than 0.05 percent of cybercrime reports get prosecuted. Imagine if 99.95 percent of burglaries or assaults went unprosecuted; the public outcry would be deafening. Yet when when the government fails to crack down on cybercrime, the response is mostly silence. The apparent acceptance of these dismal statistics represents a clear dereliction of duty by the administration, and Americans are paying the price. 

Instead of creating solutions and prosecuting bad actors, the Biden administration is blaming the victims — American businesses and consumers — for getting hacked and defrauded. The Biden Department of Justice has opted to blame and initiate an investigation into United Healthcare. And a new Biden Executive Order on cyber attacks does nothing to find and arrest the criminals but instead imposes new, costly demands on American businesses to “lock up their data” — the same response Democrat-run cities have to convenience store robberies. 

The Biden administration must pivot from this passive stance and use its existing authority to combat cybercrime. This means not just issuing statements or convening panels but taking concrete actions such as enacting stringent privacy and data security laws, bolstering cybersecurity infrastructure and prosecuting cybercriminals. 

Failure to prosecute and prevent the hacks is due not to a lack of resources, but to a failure of the federal agencies to use resources appropriately. Consider the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the primary purpose of which is to protect American consumers. While it has diligently done so for nearly 100 years, under the leadership of the Biden administration and FTC Chair Lina Khan, Americans were defrauded to a tune of nearly $25 billion

At the same time, the Biden FTC seems inept at stopping the growing deluge of robocalls and spam emails. It’s not from a lack of financial resources, as the FTC’s budget has never been bigger, and not from a lack of legal authority (robocalls and spam emails have been illegal since the turn of the century). The problem is a lack of will to act.

Instead of enforcing the laws, Khan has refocused the FTC toward attacking American businesses and helping foreign regulators and away from protecting Americans.

Since the Biden administration seems unwilling to do what is necessary to protect Americans, we and our representatives must step up. For individuals, the path forward involves implementing personal cybersecurity measures like safeguarding email accounts, using unique passwords for different services and enabling two-factor authentication or other authentication tools. These steps are crucial in a landscape where personal information is constantly at risk. 

Businesses, too, must do their part by recognizing the real and present danger of cyberattacks and ransomware. Proactive security measures are necessary to protect both customers and companies from inevitable attempts by bad actors to exploit vulnerabilities. 

Our elected representatives in Congress must shake the Biden administration out of its complacency and into overdue action. Comprehensive federal privacy and data security legislation from Congress is urgently needed to address the weaknesses that cybercriminals exploit. Moreover, Congress must exercise its oversight authority in a bipartisan fashion to understand why the current administration has failed to effectively combat this scourge. 

The increase in hacking and fraud demands a multifaceted response involving individuals, businesses and government. While Americans can and should take steps to protect themselves, the onus is on the Biden administration to lead the charge against cybercriminals, put them in jail and do its job to protect the American people. 

Carl Szabo is vice president and general counsel at NetChoice, and a professor of internet law at George Mason University’s Antonin Scalia Law School. 

The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of the Daily Caller.