Vice President Mike Pence blames US cybersecurity issues on Obama

Vice President Mike Pence speaks at the Department of Homeland Security’s National Cybersecurity Summit.

Alfred Ng/Techhnews

The US’ cybersecurity issues aren’t President Donald Trump’s fault, Vice President Mike Pence said on Tuesday. 

“Sadly, previous administrations have let the American people down when it came to cyber defense,” Pence said at the Department of Homeland Security’s National Cybersecurity Summit in New York. “We inherited a cyber crisis.”

Pence took several jabs at the Obama administration, arguing that it didn’t do enough to strengthen the US’ cybersecurity efforts, leading to major hacks over the last four years, including the OPM breach and the Equifax breach affecting half of the American population

Pence also criticized the Obama administration for using Russian-based software from Kaspersky Lab, which the federal government has since banned, citing security concerns

“The last administration too often chose silence and paralysis over strength and action,” Pence said. “Make no mistake about it, those days are over.”

In his closing remarks at the summit, which also featured panels from DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, FBI Director Christopher Wray and NSA Director Paul Nakasone, Pence highlighted efforts the Trump administration has taken to improve cybersecurity in the states. Those include a new National Risk Management Center the DHS announced at the summit, which is designed to foster co-operation between private industry and the government.

Pence’s remarks come amid heightened concern over cybersecurity, with the exposure of consumer data happening on a virtually weekly basis, and growing concern over nation-sponsored attacks.  Over the last decade, the US government has ramped up its cybersecurity operations, but in recent years the issue has reached a tipping point for many agencies.

Hackers from countries like North Korea, Russia, China and Iran have carried out major assaults, affecting elections and critical infrastructure, such as electrical grids. At a Senate hearing in February, top US intelligence officials said they considered cybersecurity the country’s greatest concern, ranking it over threats like weapons of mass destruction and terrorist attacks.

Nielsen’s opening remarks at the summit echoed that sentiment.

“The DHS was founded 15 years ago to prevent another 9/11,” the agency’s leader said. “I believe the next major attack is more likely to reach us online than on an airplane.”   

Nielsen said the US is facing an “urgent evolving crisis in cyberspace” as hackers continue to ramp up their efforts for future attacks. She noted that 2017 had been the worst year on record for cyberattacks.

“Everyone and everything is now a target,” Nielsen said.

Pence’s speech comes on the same day that Facebook said it had discovered another influence campaign on its social network, designed to undermine US democracy. It also comes about two weeks after Trump said he believed that Russian hackers interfered with the US presidential election in 2016. 

At the summit, Pence said Russia had indeed meddled in the 2016 presidential election and that the United States wouldn’t tolerate any attacks on its democracy. 

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