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Cybersecurity experts say $2 billion is too little, too late

On Monday, President Biden signed the enormous, historic infrastructure bill into law, which includes nearly $2 billion for cybersecurity. Of that, $1 billion will be distributed to state, local, tribal, and territorial governments, while $21 million will go to the Office of the National Cyber Director, an agency responsible for advising the president on all matters related to cybersecurity. Thus far, the newly-minuted agency has not been able to compete with the private sector when it comes to hiring cybersecurity experts.

The White House announced that this bill would “make our communities safer and our infrastructure more resilient to the impacts of climate change and cyber-attacks.” However, cyber experts acknowledge that America is years behind countries like Russia or China.

“It would have been great had we done this over a decade ago,” says Theresa Payton, CEO and chief advisor for cybersecurity consulting firm Fortalice Solutions. “With cyber criminal syndicates, nation states, lone wolves, we’ve had this perfect storm coming at us and the global pandemic accelerated it.”

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Allison Nixon, chief research officer for the security firm Unit 221B, remains skeptical. “We [have] spent so much of the past decade just getting humiliated by Russia and China left and right,” she says.

Nixon’s concern is that America is so far behind that playing catch-up will just take too much time. “This is a decade of backlog, a decade of cybercrime growing out of control,” she says. “It’s going to take more than a billion dollars to undo that.”

She points out that this is a positive step, but it’s one that would need to be continued into the next presidential administration. “It’s an enormous task now and we finally agree that it’s a task worth doing,” she says, “but it really relies on this country being more politically stable than it is. Who knows if there’s going to be any more cybersecurity progress in four years?”

Payton, of Fortalice Solutions, says that she is asked all the time how much money is enough to spend on cybersecurity. Payton, who oversaw IT operations for President George W. Bush from 2006 to 2008, before becoming the White House’s Chief Information Officer, always says it depends on how sustainable the project is in the long term.

“People ask how much money is enough to spend to build hurricane or fireproof buildings, and because we’re talking about lives, people say well, you can’t put a price tag on that,” she says, pointing out that cybersecurity is also about people’s lives.

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