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President Obama Issues Executive Order in Response to Cyber Attacks

On Monday, February 8, the contact information of 20,000 FBI employees were published when FBI computers were hacked— according to CNN. Names, titles, email addresses, and phone numbers of the federal employees were among the information released. The hackers posted the information on Twitter, via the account of @DotGovs. It read, “FBI and DHS info is dropped and that’s all we came to do, so now it’s time to go, bye folks! #FreePalestine.” They also posted, “Well folks, it looks like @TheJusticeDept has finally realized their computer has been breached after 1 week.” The Justice Department is investigating the security breach. Justice Department Spokesperson, Peter Carr, told CNN that it does not appear to be sensitive information — such as social security numbers— that were compromised. The hackers continued their Twitter communication and posted, “When will the US government realize we won’t stop until they cut relations with Israel.”

Monmouth University’s Professor Yessir Gallagher previously worked for the State Department, and commented on the United States’ relations with Palestine, “I am most pessimistic about the long-term future of Palestine. The Israelis have allowed more than half-a-million settlers to move into Palestinian territory in the West Bank despite repeated pleas by American presidents and the United Nations that they not do so.” He continued, “I can’t imagine how they could ever peacefully move those people out of their settlements.  I have little hope for a positive resolution of this problem in the near future.  Continued violence - including more cyberattacks - is likely.”

This has become a concern for the federal government, and has prompted President Obama to take action. The White House has informed the press over the week that they are working to increase the security of federal computer systems. Last Tuesday, President Obama signed an executive order to establish a federal privacy council that will ensure all federal branches of government are using the best security practices when protecting employees’ information, in addition to classified government information– according to White House Press Secretary, Josh Earnest.

Professor Gallagher, a previous employee of the State Department, was one of the employees whose information was compromised. He said, “The federal government has informed me that I am one of the twenty million federal employees whose data has already been compromised.” He also said, “I have no idea what the implications of that are, but they can’t be good; so, as a victim of the hackers, I feel that the government should have done something long ago to address the issue of computer security more effectively.” 

As a part of this executive order, the New York Times reported information regarding President Obama’s annual budget proposal. The proposal calls for a $19 billion increase in the security of federal computers, and $3.1 billion to replace outdated IT systems that are harder to secure. Monmouth’s political science professor and Dean of the Honors School, Kevin Dooley, said, “I think that infrastructure projects need to receive the funding that can preserve the safety of Americans. In this regard, an investment in cyber security is similar to an investment in updating our roads, tunnels, and bridges. The money is well worth the potential costs.”

He continued, “The problem however, is that there has been a blurring between the duties once performed exclusively by government bureaucrats and those performed by outsourced, privately operated firms. Much of the information that is in cyberspace will require an overhaul of how we protect people in the private sector. Is it legal for a government agency to protect the personal information of private individuals at private companies?” He asks “Or is this the prerogative of the private companies themselves? The money that the president spent is a good start, but since cyber security is an issue that blurs the line between public and private, it is one that has constitutional consequences.”

A significant amount of Obama’s proposal will require congress to sign off, and The New York Times has stated that GOP lawmakers are less than willing to consider the new budget. However, President Obama has made it clear that he has spoken with Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, and he is optimistic that congress will approve his budget proposal. Monmouth University sophomore psychology major, Liz Roderick said, “It’s important to keep our cybersecurity high in order to protect our federal employees and sensitive federal information. If we don’t make any changes, we allow potential terrorists to access our most classified information, which can put our entire nation at risk.”

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