Sen. King’s cyber commission to stop meeting

By | September 15, 2023
Sen. King’s cyber commission to stop meeting

The U.S. Senator from Maine spent the last two years as co-chair of the Cyberspace Solarium Commission, and it’s scheduled to close.

MAINE, Maine — As more companies face ransomware hacks, the threat of cyberattacks remains prominent. For that reason, Congress created the Cyberspace Solarium Commission to reshape how the federal government thinks about cybersecurity.

Sen. Angus King, I-Maine, was co-chair of the commission, along with Rep. Michael Gallagher, R-Wisconsin. After 50 meetings over the last two years, the group’s work will come to a scheduled close this week.

King told NEWS CENTER Maine he was proud of the commission’s work over the last several months. One example of that work was creating the National Cyber Director role, which will focus on cybersecurity and cyber defense at the federal level. Chris Inglis was named to the position last summer.

Besides establishing the new post in Washington, the commission enacted more than a dozen laws, and more recommendations are on their way to becoming law in this year’s National Defense Authorization Act.

The commission also looked at all kinds of cybersecurity threats, ways to boost defenses and be best equipped for the future. While some may think of cyberattacks as happening internationally, King said many of them are more common, and in spaces people wouldn’t expect. 

“The real conflict is in the private sector. Around 85% of the target space in cyber is in the private sector. The electric grid, the financial system, the transportation system,” he added. “So, we have to establish a new relationship between the private sector and the public sector in order to mutually defend the country.”

Experts from the private sector were part of King’s commission, as well as executive branch officials and other lawmakers.

Plenty of Americans have heard reports or know of people affected by ransomware or other cyberattacks. King said the threats aren’t just a problem in the U.S., Russia, or China. It’s a worldwide issue. 

Because of all the international communication, a significant recommendation from the commission was to create a bureau within the Department of State to work with other countries and establish the “rules of the road.”

Before the lawmakers could submit legislation on the matter, King said the State Department announced it would establish the office. The legal wording is still in the works, according to the senator. 

Many of the conversations within the commission were centered on national and international security. But King mentioned cyberattacks could happen to anyone in Maine.

“Almost all of the major cyberattacks that we’ve heard about in the last several years started with someone at a desktop in a smaller office somewhere, clicking on an email,” he added.

One of the easiest ways hackers can use cyberattacks against people is by accessing their cell phones. During commission meetings, King learned smartphones are vulnerable when they’re always on. 

“But if the phone is turned off like once a week, [hackers] have to go through all the problems again of trying to sneak in,” he said.

The commission will stop meeting, but the cybersecurity concerns won’t be going away and won’t be solved by one series of new laws, King said. He and other lawmakers will continue to work with the private sector to advance the progress made since 2019.

Watch full interview with King below.

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